Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, informally meeting her employees at the State Department on Thursday, Jan. 27, described the democratization of Japan and Germany after World War II as models for what she hopes can occur in the Middle
East—an area where a spokesman later announced she will leave for Feb. 3 after President George W. Bush delivers his State of the Union message
"While no one might have been able, at that time, to imagine a democratic Germany or a democratic Japan," Rice told employees waiting to meet her at the State Department, "when President Bush now sits across from Chancellor Schroeder or from Prime Minister Koizumi, he sits across not just from a friend, but a democratic friend.
"I know that there are those who wonder whether democracy can take hold in the rocky soil of the West Bank or in Iraq or in Afghanistan," Rice added. "I believe that we, as Americans, who know how hard the path to democracy is, have to believe that it can. And we have to make it so that we work with those who want to achieve those aspirations so that, one day, a future President is sitting across from the democratic president or prime minister of many a Middle Eastern country, of many a country that has not yet known democracy."
A few hours after Rice's informal speech, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher announced that Secretary Rice would travel to nine countries between Feb. 3 and Feb. 10, listing them in the "approximate" order she will visit
them— United Kingdom, Germany, Poland, Turkey, Israel, Italy, France, Belgium and Luxembourg. Details remain to be "pinned down," Boucher said.
Rice "will coordinate with European partners and institutions to support reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa," Boucher said. "She looks forward to working with European allies to advance the Middle East peace process, and she expects to support development of European institutions while in Europe."
While in Israel, Rice expects to "meet leaders on both sides, Israeli and Palestinian leaders. She will, first of all, look to hear from them about the opportunities and how they're proceeding," Boucher said. "This will be her first trip there as Secretary of State, although she is very familiar with the people and the issues. But I would also say that this is a chance for her to hear from them about all the things they have been doing, about how they see the opportunities, and of course, as the President has said, she’ll convey the President's commitment and our desire to take advantage of every opportunity to move forward towards peace."
The State Department spokesman noted that President Bush, in a Jan. 26 interview with
Al Arabiya, "mentioned that he was sending her to London to the Palestinian conference being planned
— the conference on Palestinian reform that's being planned for London in early March.
"So, I think this trip and that trip and the other efforts that you've seen her make in the past and would
— she would expect to make in the future will be a sign of her ongoing personal involvement in the process of, as I said, taking advantage of every opportunity to move forward."
Asked if she would be meeting with Israel's Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Boucher replied: "I would expect she would meet with senior leaders on both sides, but we don't have
... every meeting pinned down. I'm not in a position to give you schedules for any particular stop yet."