- The Washington Times - Monday, January 31, 2005

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, determined to confront the diplomatic tensions of President Bush’s first term head-on, has chosen Paris as the venue for the main policy speech of her first foreign trip, the State Department said yesterday.

The Feb. 8 address will try to explain to the Europeans the Bush administration’s plans for the next four years, emphasizing that any actions it takes will be motivated not by imperial ambitions but by causes and values Europe itself holds dear, such as freedom and democracy, officials said.

Miss Rice’s trip, which begins Thursday, includes other countries that opposed the U.S.-led war in Iraq such as Germany and Belgium, but she chose France. French President Jacques Chirac has been promoting the concept of a “multipolar world” to replace the existing “unipolar” system of U.S. dominance.

“She wanted to do it in Paris because she felt Paris was one of the places where there is a lot of debate and discussion about the U.S., about Europe, about common goals, about how we achieve our agenda,” State Department spokesman Richard Boucher told reporters.

“She wanted to be part of that discussion and put her ideas into the mix,” he said.

Diplomats in Europe said the top officials Miss Rice will meet there look forward to welcoming her and having substantive and frank discussions.

But Mr. Boucher said he did not anticipate the countries that opposed the war and refused to contribute substantially to the reconstruction effort in Iraq to change their policies, even after Sunday’s elections.

“I don’t think any of us expect to see a radical shift in the kind of activity that various European governments are involved in, but many of them have been very supportive of this process,” Mr. Boucher said.

“We would certainly hope that everybody would recognize what a step forward the Iraqi people made [by voting] and how important it is for all of us to encourage and support those steps,” he said.

Miss Rice will begin her weeklong trip in London, whose help in the Iraq war she and Mr. Bush value greatly. She will visit two more Iraq coalition partners, Italy and Poland, as well as Luxembourg and Turkey.

During a stop in the Middle East on Sunday and Monday, she is expected to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Yesterday, Miss Rice held talks at the State Department with Dov Weisglass, one of Mr. Sharon’s closest advisers with whom she met regularly during her four years as Mr. Bush’s national security adviser.

During the unannounced meeting, which also was attended by Israeli military officials, Mr. Weisglass updated Miss Rice on Israel’s plan to withdraw from Gaza and parts of the West Bank, officials said.

Earlier, Miss Rice told State Department employees there cannot be peace in the Middle East unless the Palestinians have their own state.

“I don’t think any of us doubt that without a Palestinian state that is viable, that can meet the aspirations of the Palestinian people, that there really isn’t going to be a peace for either the Palestinian people or the Israelis,” she said.

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