Rice Rejects Engaging Iran, Syria on Iraq


    U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has rejected a bipartisan
panel's recommendation that the Bush administration engage Syria and Iran in
efforts to stabilize Iraq, The Washington Post reported on Friday.

    The "compensation" required for any such deal might be too high, Rice
told the paper in an interview.

    Rice said she did not want to trade away Lebanese sovereignty to Syria
or allow Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon as a price for peace in Iraq, the
Post reported.

    She also argued that neither Syria nor Iran should need incentives to
help achieve stability in Iraq, the Post reported.

    "If they have an interest in a stable Iraq, they will do it anyway,"
Rice said.

    The bipartisan Iraq Study Group included talks with Iran and Syria among
its key recommendations it presented to the White House last week for
dealing with the worsening chaos in Iraq.

    The group, led by former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker and former
Democratic Rep. Lee Hamilton, urged that its report be adopted as a whole.

    President George W. Bush is reviewing policy in Iraq and plans to
outline a shift in course early next year.

    Rice told The Washington Post that Bush could be "quite expansive" in
the policy review and that the new plan would be a "departure." However, she
told the newspaper that Bush would not radically change any of his long-term
goals or commitment to Iraq.

    Rice said the administration's goal over the next two years was to help
Iraqis marginalize extremists and create a moderate middle that can hold the
country together, the Post reported.

    The newspaper said she acknowledged that violence may not have ended
before the administration leaves office in about two years' time, but said
she hopes that Iraqis would "get to a place that is sustainable" by the end
of 2008.

    Rice also said the administration would not retreat from its push to
promote democracy in the Middle East and reiterated her commitment to
pursuing peace between Palestinians and Israelis, the Post said.

    "Get ready. We are going to the Middle East a lot," Rice said.