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Analysis: Rice Brings New Style To State

The change of tone was more than Washington cutting its losses. Partly, it was the result of last month's IAEA decision to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council if it did not come clean about its nuclear program, a step the Bush administration has been pushing for two years, and ElBaradei had previously blocked. It also reflected a shift in style, manner and to some extent substance in U.S. diplomacy in the second Bush administration.

Washington (UPI) Oct 12, 2005
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was among the first to phone Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, upon receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

This is the same ElBaradei, who was vilified by the Bush administration three years ago when he pleaded before the U.N. Security Council for more time to investigate whether Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction existed elsewhere other than in the minds of U.S. intelligence, because on-the-spot U.N. weapons inspectors had found no evidence of their current existence.

This is also the same ElBaradei whose re-appointment in April for a third term as director of the Vienna-based IAEA was opposed by the Bush administration. The opposition was personal because Washington clearly felt that the Egyptian had not shown himself to be tough enough to deal with recalcitrant governments, such as Iran and North Korea.

Never mind that he had been right all along about Iraq. When the United States turned out to be the only one out of the 35 nations represented on the organization's board of governors to be against ElBaradei, Washington dropped its opposition.

So it came as something of a surprise to hear Nicholas Burns, the U.S. Deputy Under Secretary for Political Affairs, declare last week, "Secretary (Condoleezza) Rice reached out to Dr. ElBaradei this morning because we have great respect for him. We are genuinely pleased that this very important institution is being recognized by the Nobel Committee in Oslo. It's well deserved, and they've done fine work, and are doing fine work on Iran."

The change of tone was more than Washington cutting its losses. Partly, it was the result of last month's IAEA decision to refer Iran to the U.N. Security Council if it did not come clean about its nuclear program, a step the Bush administration has been pushing for two years, and ElBaradei had previously blocked. It also reflected a shift in style, manner and to some extent substance in U.S. diplomacy in the second Bush administration.

This week, while Rice was traveling in Afghanistan and other South Asian countries, Burns was in the Balkans to tackle some of the unfinished business in that ethnically complex, troubled region. He told reporters in Washington that in Kosovo he planned to lay some groundwork for the planned U.N. conference on Kosovo's future status, in other words, to soften up the ethnic Albanians who are seeking an independent state, and the Serbs who favor union with Serbia.

In Serbia itself he will put pressure on the government to arrest Gen. Ratko Mladic and Radovan Karadzic, who masterminded and carried out the ethnic cleansing in Bosnia, including the murder of 8,000 men and boys in Srebrenica 10 years ago. Both are wanted by the War Crimes Tribunal for Yugoslavia in the Hague. In Croatia he will raise the issue of arresting Gen. Ante Gotovina, also wanted for war crimes.

Burns' most persuasive argument with Serbia and Croatia is that failure to comply could result in the United States blocking either country from entering NATO, which both aspire to do, and using Washington's influence to undermine their chances of joining the European Union.

In June, he says, the Serbian government led him to understand that the arrest of Mladic and Karadzic was imminent, but it never happened. Still Burns, a key proponent of the new U.S. style, was careful not to ruffle feathers. "I'm not saying I was lied to," he said. "But it does not stand up to argue that somehow in that very small country the Serbian authorities cannot find Gen. Mladic," he added.

If senior U.S. diplomats have lowered the volume, thinned out the rhetoric, but speak with more authority, that's typical for a policy team in the second administration, which is "characteristically more skilled and more effective than the first administration's team," says Robert J. Lieber, professor of Government and Foreign Service at Washington's American University. Doubly so in the second Bush administration because Secretary of State Rice has already had government experience in the National Security Council, and has the president's ear.

It's well known that the relationship between Bush and former Secretary of State Colin Powell was "correct but not close," in particular towards the end of the administration, says Lieber, author of the recent book, "The American Era: Power and Strategy for the 21st Century." Rice's unwavering loyalty to President Bush is equally well known. "Those who deal with (Secretary Rice) know she is close to the president, and that has a huge effectiveness." Besides, he adds, second term teams tend to be more effective because "it takes time for things to shake down."

A Western diplomat in Washington says one significant difference is that Rice has not allowed the meat grinder of the long war in Iraq to overwhelm America's foreign policy agenda. Now, Iran looms large among American concerns, and Rice used bi-lateral meetings in New York during last month's opening of the U.N. General Assembly to broaden U.S. support, which produced dividends at the meeting of IAEA board governors.

She is said to be very satisfied with her campaign to "turn" India on the Iran vote. The Indians were openly opposed to referring Iran to the Security Council, and were expected to vote against it in Vienna. The trick for Washington was to win New Delhi's support despite India's close relationship with Iran -- without jeopardizing the progress the Bush administration had made in strengthening U.S. understanding with India.

According to diplomatic sources U.S. officials -- no doubt Rice among them -- quietly advised the Indians that the administration's commitment made in July to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to provide nuclear technology for civilian uses still needed Congressional approval - and the Hill was thin skinned about countries voting against the United States. Much to the surprise of the Iranians, the Indians caved.

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Washington (UPI) Oct 10, 2005
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