Rice leaves today for discussions in Asia

On TV, secretary of state says no presidency run

March 14, 2005|By COX NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON - Condoleezza Rice leaves for Asia today on her first trip to the region as secretary of state, during which she will solicit help to convince North Korea and Iran to end their nuclear weapons ambitions.

North Korea will dominate her meetings in China, Japan and South Korea, and she will also renew efforts to persuade China to crack down on companies selling advanced weaponry and expertise to Iran.

Meanwhile, on three Sunday-morning television shows, Rice closed the door on a bid for the White House in 2008, saying she planned a return to academic life.

"I don't have any desire to run for president. I don't intend to. I won't do it," she said on ABC's This Week. "I won't. How's that? Is that categorical enough?"

In India, Rice's first stop in the weeklong visit, and Pakistan, Rice hopes to build on early peace overtures between the two nuclear powers that have long faced off over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

Rice will also travel to Afghanistan. In Kabul, she plans to meet with President Hamid Karzai to discuss ways the United States can help ensure successful parliamentary elections later this year.

Rice is scheduled to return to Washington on March 21, two days before she accompanies President Bush to his Texas ranch for a summit with Mexican President Vicente Fox and Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin.

The main thrust of the Asia trip will come in Japan, South Korea and China. Those countries, along with Russia, have joined the United States in efforts to persuade North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

Diplomats from all six countries met in June but haven't sat down at the table since then. Earlier this year, North Korea declared that it already has nuclear weapons - U.S. intelligence analysts think the isolated Communist state may possess as many as eight - and announced that it would no longer participate in the six-party talks.

Bush has said that security guarantees, economic aid and low-level diplomacy await North Korea if its reclusive leader, Kim Jong Il, agrees to permanently dismantle his nuclear arms programs.

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