Barack Obama might have little option but to follow George W. Bush’s approach on a range of foreign policy issues, including Iran, said Condoleezza Rice, secretary of state.
Ms Rice told the Financial Times the new administration was likely to follow Mr Bush’s lead in the dispute over Iran’s nuclear programme. During the president’s second term, the US has co-ordinated its approach with the European Union, Russia and China.
“When I talk to our allies they believe that that is the structure with which this is ultimately going to be resolved,” Ms Rice said, while acknowledging that the Obama administration would generally “do things in their own way”.
She said: “The reason why there might be some elements of continuity is that what we’ve tried to do is to arrange or organise international groupings that can first manage and then resolve these very difficult problems in a multilateral way.” She was referring not just to the administration’s efforts over Iran but also its approach to North Korea and the Israel-Palestinian issue.
Ms Rice’s words could damp expectations that the incoming administration will represent a complete break with its predecessor on foreign policy.
They also highlight the obstacles facing the new team as it seeks breakthroughs for problems the Bush administration has failed to resolve. In an echo of the current administration’s rhetoric, Mr Obama promises to use carrots and sticks to push Iran to rein in its nuclear programme.
But in spite of a sustained sanctions drive by the US and its allies and an offer of talks, Iran has stepped up uranium enrichment and is widely reckoned to be moving closer to nuclear weapons capability.
While Mr Obama has promised a radically different approach to the outgoing administration on issues such as climate change, and Guantanamo Bay, many of his cabinet picks are centrists who have won praise from Republicans.
Although Ms Rice has described herself as “especially proud” of Mr Obama’s election as the first African American president, she consistently declines to say for whom she voted.
Ms Rice expressed concern over the expected appointment of a series of special envoys for world hotspots, saying it was important not to cut ambassadors and diplomats out of the loop.
Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2008
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