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Rice: U.S., Europe partners in freedom

U.S. diplomat urges Europe to put aside differences over Iraq

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice prepares to give a major policy address Tuesday in Paris.
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PARIS, France (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attempted Tuesday to mend the rift between France and the United States over the Iraq war, saying it's "time to turn away from the disagreements of the past."

"It is time to open a new chapter in our relationship and a new chapter in our alliance," Rice said in what was billed as a major foreign policy speech at the Institut d'Etudes Politiques de Paris.

"Time and again in our shared history, Americans and Europeans have enjoyed our greatest successes, for ourselves and for others, when we refused to accept an unacceptable status quo -- but instead put our values to work for the cause of freedom," she said.

Rice's visit to France -- her first in her new role of secretary of state -- was seen as an attempt to repair relations strained by France's opposition to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq and to engage France and Europe in spreading global freedom. (Full story)

At a news conference later with Rice, French Foreign Minister Michel Barnier said the "world is a better place when Europeans and Americans work together."

He echoed Rice's call for a new era in U.S.-Franco relations, in which both countries "exchange their views and analyses while respecting each other's specific views and specific sensitivities."

"I think it's time for a fresh start," Barnier told Rice.

In her speech, Rice listed the end of the Cold War, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of fighting in the Balkans as prime examples of the United States and Europe working together, and she said the partners must cooperate again to further freedom worldwide.

"Our charge is clear: We on the right side of freedom's divide have an obligation to help those unlucky enough to have been born on the wrong side of that divide."

Rice said, however, that liberty cannot be forced upon a country.

"Freedom by its very nature must be homegrown. It must be chosen. It cannot be given, and it certainly cannot be imposed."

The people of Iraq chose freedom when they voted despite the terrorists' threats of suicide bombings, Rice said.

"There comes a time in the life of every nation where its people refuse to accept the status quo that demeans their basic humanity. There comes a time when people take control of their own lives. For the Iraqi people, that time has come."

Rice said the trans-Atlantic partnership must rise to the occasion and help Iraq develop its political and economic institutions, and she warned that those who try to mount obstacles on the road to democracy are going against the grain.

"Today's radical Islamists are swimming against the tide of the human spirit. They grab the headlines with their ruthless brutality -- and they can be brutal," she said.

"The face of terrorism in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, called democracy an evil principle. To our enemies, liberté, egalité and fraternité are also evil principles," Rice said, borrowing the French national motto, "liberty, equality, brotherhood."

"They want to dominate others, not to liberate them. They demand conformity, not equality. They still regard difference as a license to kill."

She compared the beginnings of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq to the situation in Europe 50 years ago, saying no one imagined then that years later the Soviet Union would peacefully break up, Germany would be reunified and NATO would include not only Western European nations but their Eastern neighbors.

"How did they do it? They did it because they remained united as an alliance of values," Rice said.

"And I know it looks really hard to talk about the spread of freedom and liberty into places where it has never been.

"I know it looks really hard, when we see the pictures from Iraq of the suicide bombers, to think that the Iraqi people are going to build a free and stable democratic state," Rice said.

"I know it looks hard when we look at Afghanistan and how far it has to go.

"But this last month or so -- little more than that -- has been something else. How could you not be impressed with the Rose Revolution in Georgia and the Orange Revolution in Ukraine, and with Palestinian people going to elect a leader who says that it is time to give up the armed intifada and live in peace with Israel?"

With so much change in the world, Rice said, now is the time to act.

"If we, in this great alliance, put our values and our efforts and our resources to work on behalf of this great cause, we've only just begun to see what freedom can achieve," she said.

Rice said Washington welcomes the growing unity and strength of Europe.

"America has everything to gain from having a stronger Europe as a partner in building a safer and better world," she said.

Rice met later Tuesday with French President Jacques Chirac.

President Bush will hold talks with Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder February 21 in Brussels.

CNN's Andrea Koppel contributed to this report.

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