U.N. Ambassador Rice: 'Engagement' And U.S. Goals

t - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice testifies on Capitol Hill. i i

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, testifies about new challenges the U.S. is facing in international peacekeeping operations during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Alex Wong/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Alex Wong/Getty Images
t - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice testifies on Capitol Hill.

Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, testifies about new challenges the U.S. is facing in international peacekeeping operations during a hearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Alex Wong/Getty Images

There are plenty of issues facing the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations: two wars; a disputed election in Iran; a preliminary election in Afghanistan; the possibility of a nuclear Iran; and the reality of a nuclear North Korea. But, Susan Rice says, that's what the U.N. is for to resolve complicated international issues.

Afghanistan's presidential election may be headed to a runoff as preliminary results released by Afghan election officials Tuesday showed that neither of the top challengers President Hamid Karzai and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah had more than 50 percent of the vote.

"The United States has been very clear that we don't support any particular individual or candidate," Rice tells NPR's Renee Montagne, "but rather the opportunity for the Afghan people to express their will freely. This is going to be a process that yields a legitimate subsequent government is our hope and our expectation."

Final results in the race are expected next month.

Dealing With Iran

With regard to Afghanistan's neighbor, Rice says preventing Iran from acquiring any nuclear weapons capacity is crucial to the security of both Israel and the United States.

She says the administration is prepared to negotiate and engage Iran. However, she says, a proposal from Germany and the five permanent members of the Security Council (the U.S., Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom) that promises no new sanctions if Iran freezes its nuclear program will not be on the table indefinitely.

"We think it would be in Iran's best interest to have responded in a constructive fashion as soon as possible," she says.

The Human Rights Council

During Rice's tenure, the United States made the controversial decision to rejoin the United Nations Human Rights Council, whose members have included some of the worst human rights violators.

Noting the flaws of the council, Rice says, "The Bush administration's posture of standing outside of the council didn't ease human rights abuses or strengthen our ability to push back against them."

The Obama administration is profoundly and deeply committed to upholding human rights and democracy around the world, she says, and the ability to achieve those goals "is enhanced from engaging from within, rather than criticizing from the sidelines."

"Engagement is not an end in itself; it's a means to an end. It's a means to advance U.S. interests and U.S. values," she says. "We are involved in the United Nations because it serves U.S. interests."

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