- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 27, 2005

Condoleezza Rice, on her first day as secretary of state, told employees at the State Department yesterday that it will be the leading agency in implementing President Bush’s ambitious freedom-spreading agenda outlined in his inaugural address last week.

In a broad consultation effort with allies on Mr. Bush’s foreign-policy goals during his second term in office, Miss Rice will travel to eight European capitals starting next week and will visit Israel and the West Bank, officials said.

“We’ve got a lot of challenges ahead of us. This is a really remarkable time in our country’s history,” she said upon her arrival at Foggy Bottom.

She compared the current challenges to the difficulties the United States faced after World War II, lauding the far-sighted decisions made by President Truman and his postwar secretaries of state, George C. Marshall and Dean Acheson.

“America will stand with those who want their aspirations met for liberty and freedom,” she said. “And I’m going to look and the president’s going to look to this department to lead that effort — and not just to implement policy, but we are going to need ideas, intellectual capital.”

Miss Rice also said she expected her subordinates to be “committed to carrying out that bold agenda.”

“That’s our charge,” she said. “That’s our calling.”

Miss Rice, who was a State Department intern in 1977, was confirmed by a 85-13 Senate vote on Wednesday. She was Mr. Bush’s national security adviser during his first term.

Yesterday, she was greeted by Marc Grossman, undersecretary for political affairs and the department’s most senior career official, and hundreds of employees, who applauded and cheered her.

Among the first phone calls she made in her new capacity were to President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia — two countries that have good relations with the Bush administration but face criticism from pro-democracy advocates.

During her weeklong trip starting Thursday, Miss Rice is scheduled to visit Britain, Germany, France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Italy, Poland, Turkey, Israel and the West Bank.

“She will work to identify a common agenda for 2005 with our European partners and our partners in the Middle East — an agenda of fighting terrorism, proliferation, disease and poverty, as we support democracy in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

Administration officials said Miss Rice’s heavy travel schedule at the beginning of her tenure is a sign of increased interest in consulting with allies and other countries. The administration has been criticized for its go-it-alone approach during its first four years.

Miss Rice will try to find common ground with the Europeans on some thorny issues, such as Iran’s nuclear program and the European Union’s plan to lift its arms embargo on China, a move the administration strongly opposes.

Mr. Bush is scheduled to visit Europe in late February.

In the Middle East, Miss Rice is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

“She’ll convey the president’s commitment and our desire to take advantage of every opportunity to move forward towards peace,” Mr. Boucher said.

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