Rice: Don't take Iraq errors 'literally'
U.S. secretary of state visits England amid anti-war protests
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BLACKBURN, England (CNN) -- One day after Condoleezza Rice said the United States made possibly "thousands" of tactical mistakes in the war against Iraq, the secretary of state says she was speaking "figuratively, not literally."
About 300 protesters -- most of them upset about the war in Iraq -- and two dozen supporters greeted Rice outside the town hall in Blackburn, the home of her counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.
The two faced reporters at midday after attending a multi-faith service at Blackburn Cathedral and meeting with the city's Muslim leaders. About 20 percent of Blackburn's population is Muslim.
In a speech Friday at an event organized by the Chatham House think tank, Rice said, "I am quite certain there are going to be dissertations written about the mistakes of the Bush administration."
"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," she said. "But when you look back in history what will be judged on is" whether the "right strategic decision" was made.
On Saturday, a reporter asked Rice to give examples of the mistakes.
"First of all, I meant it figuratively, not literally. Let me be very clear about that. I wasn't sitting around counting," she replied. "The point I was making to the questioner ... is that, of course, if you've ever made decisions, you've undoubtedly made mistakes.
"The important thing is to get the big strategic decisions right, and that I am confident that the decision to overthrow Saddam Hussein and give the Iraqi people an opportunity for peace and for democracy is the right decision."
"The other point I was making to the questioner is that I'm enough of a historian to know that things that looked brilliant at the moment turn out in historical perspective to be mistakes, and the things that look like mistakes turn out to have been right decisions."
Rice, who has been dogged by protesters over the past two days, denied that they have drowned out her messages, and repeated that the right to protest is fundamental in a democracy.
"Indeed, I've been very warmly welcomed. I've also noticed the people waving along the streets, I've noticed the considerable gathering of people from Blackburn, just on the other side of the demonstrations. I'm hearing their voices equally clearly and equally well," she said.
Straw also downplayed the demonstrations, including one in Liverpool Friday night that drew about 1,500 outside the city's Philharmonic Concert Hall.
A singer at the concert dedicated a song to the demonstrators, sang John Lennon's "Imagine" and gave an impromptu rendition of his "Give Peace A Chance."
"I'm not embarrassed in the least," Straw said of the demonstrations.
He drew laughter from the reporters when he added, "as for the size of the crowds, I've been on plenty of demonstrations in my life -- well maybe a few years ago -- but I've not forgotten what is a big crowd and what is a small crowd -- and that was not a big crowd" in Liverpool.
Rice was expected to return to Liverpool later Saturday.
-- CNN's Elise Labott contributed to this report.
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