WASHINGTON – Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice told The Associated Press on Thursday that Iraq is "worth the investment" in American lives and dollars.
The top U.S. diplomat said the United States can win in Iraq, although the war so far has been longer and more difficult than she had expected. She made the remarks at a time when President Bush is under pressure from the public and members of Congress to find a fresh course in the long-running and costly war, which has shown no signs of nearing an end and cost the lives of more than 2,950 American troops.
In the AP interview, Rice was asked whether an additional $100 billion the Pentagon wants for the Iraq and Afghan wars might amount to throwing good money after bad in Iraq. Bush and Congress have already provided more than $500 billion for the two conflicts and worldwide efforts against terrorism, including more than $350 billion for Iraq.
"I don't think it's a matter of money," Rice said. "Along the way there have been plenty of markers that show that this is a country that is worth the investment, because once it emerges as a country that is a stabilizing factor you will have a very different kind of Middle East."
Rice added, "I know from the point of view of not just the monetary cost but the sacrifice of American lives a lot has been sacrificed for Iraq, a lot has been invested in Iraq."
Bush would not ask for continued sacrifice and spending "if he didn't believe, and in fact I believe as well, that we can in fact succeed," Rice said.
In a wide-ranging interview, Rice also said she has no reason to believe North Korea is serious about dismantling its nuclear weapons. "That's what we're testing," in disarmament talks this week that a Japanese envoy described as deadlocked.
Rice said a watered-down United Nations sanctions resolution against Iran would have more than symbolic value but said she has no assurances that Russia will vote for the resolution this week despite long efforts to satisfy Moscow's misgivings about sanctions.
She said she is confident all U.N. members will enforce the sanctions once passed, no matter how they voted.
The nation's highest-ranking black government official also said that America is ready to elect a black president. She has repeatedly said she will not run herself, and she declined to say whether she would like to see her predecessor, Colin Powell, become a candidate. Powell is a fellow black Republican.
"I'm not going to give Colin any advice and he's not going to give me any advice on this one," Rice said.