PARIS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice spent 24 hours in Paris this week. During that time, she participated in 13 meetings, gave two television interviews and held a brief press conference in the freezing cold courtyard of the Elysee Palace.
She was so pressed for time that her meeting with Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and current representative of the so-called Quartet of Middle East peace negotiators, took place in her car instead of at the site of a Palestinian donors’ conference.
Most of Miss Rice’s engagements were related to the conference and the peace process, as well as U.S.-France relations. But she also managed to squeeze in a meeting with South Korean Foreign Minister Song Min-soon.
In her third year as the nation’s top diplomat, Miss Rice has carved out a travel pattern rather different from that of most of her predecessors. She has minimized the several-day, multistop journeys that have often shaped the secretary’s itinerary in favor of one- or two-stop trips.
She is much more likely to go only to one country with a specific purpose and come straight back to Washington, rather than visit several other countries in the same region.
“Her travel fits police needs,” a State Department official said, noting that Miss Rice does not necessarily dislike or deliberately try to avoid long trips. “Her belief is that you travel where you need a job done.”
A look at the secretary’s travel history this year shows that she started out in January with a weeklong, seven-country swing through the Middle East and Europe.
Over the ensuing months, however, she took single-stop trips to Canada, Norway, Egypt, Russia, Panama, France, Portugal and Israel.
Her two-stop trips included France and Belgium; Turkey and Israel; and Ethiopia and Belgium. While visiting Israel, she usually spends a few hours also meeting with the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank.
After leaving Paris late Tuesday night, Miss Rice flew to Iraq before returning to Washington.
Miss Rice’s businesslike approach to diplomatic travel breaks with years of tradition. It had become customary, when the secretary was about to attend an international meeting in a foreign city, for him or her to drop by several other countries in the region.
The State Department’s regional bureaus still try to push such itineraries, but they have been less successful in selling them to Miss Rice this year, a department official said.
Her choice of travel destinations also directly reflected her policy priorities, the official said. She has spent most of her time on the road in the Middle East and Europe, given her preoccupation with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Iraq and Iran.
She did not visit Asia at all this year, having entrusted Christopher Hill, assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, with the North Korea nuclear negotiations.
Ethiopia and Panama were the only countries she went to in Africa and in Latin America, respectively. She did accompany President Bush on a five-nation Latin American tour in March.