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History will vindicate Bush administration: Rice

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged that the Bush administration fell short of goals it had set for itself but maintained that history would prove it right.

world Updated: Dec 23, 2008 10:49 IST

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice acknowledged on Monday that the Bush administration fell short of goals it had set for itself but maintained that history would prove it right.

In an interview with AFP, the chief US diplomat conceded that eight years after President George W Bush came to power, his administration's popularity was "not very great" in the Arab world.

"I understand that a lot of the history between the US and the Arab world is one that Arabs look to as a time of humiliation and of lack of respect. That did not start with President Bush and it will not merely end with President Bush," she said.

American popularity in the Arab world has seen a steady decline in the wake of the US led "war on terror," despite an initial surge of sympathy in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, DC.

But Rice, whose job ends when Bush hands over the presidency to Barack Obama on January 20, predicted the Arabs will change their view of the Bush administration.

"Over time I think that the fact that America has stood for the Arab world and for the Arabs to have the same rights and the same ability to live in freedom as we have, that that will ultimately be respected," Rice said.

History will vindicate Bush, she said, by showing that Iraq, in the wake of the 2003 US led invasion, will change the face of the Middle East and will be the first multi ethnic and multi confessional democracy in the Arab world.

Rice conceded the Palestinian Israeli peace process that was revived in Annapolis, Maryland a year ago had not led to a peace deal a stated goal for Bush's second term but said the situation had improved from when Bush took office at the height of the Palestinian intifada, or uprising.

"And, yes, they haven't gotten to the establishment of a Palestinian state yet, and yes, Hamas is wreaking havoc in Gaza," Rice said.

"But if you look at where this was in 2001, you have to remark on how far it's come," she said.

The war on terror has failed to eliminate Al-Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden, but the US led coalition and Iraq are close to defeating the group's Iraq branch, she said.

Critics charge that the fall of Saddam Hussein, a secular Sunni Arab leader, opened the way for Al-Qaeda to launch operations there.

Taliban militants, Al-Qaeda allies, may be bolstering their influence along the Afghanistan Pakistan border "but I do not think that it would be right to say that they are unchallenged there or they're somehow on the march," Rice said.

"We are winning a lot of the major battles, but the war is not yet over."

The international sanctions on Iran often imposed at the initiative of the United States have so far failed to force Tehran to halt its sensitive nuclear work but Rice put her bets on continuing financial pressure.

"The Iranians are paying a cost," Rice argued.

"We'll see how long it takes before the cost starts to have an effect on Iranian policy

"I think it will be exacerbated by the lower oil prices. The economy was already a shambles before the lower oil prices," Rice said.

"Now, one has to wonder how long they can hang on given the new circumstances and given their increased international isolation," she said.

At the end of January, Rice plans to return to Stanford University in northern California, near San Francisco, where she will do research at the Hoover Institution, which specializes in international affairs.

She hopes to write two books: a tribute to her African American parents at the time of the racially-segregated south; and the other, she said, "on foreign policy, as every secretary of state is obliged to do."

But the second one might have to simmer for a while because it "has been such a turbulent time and such a consequential time that it may take a little reflection," she added.

First Published: Dec 23, 2008 10:42 IST