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Exclusive: Condoleezza Rice fires back at Cheney memoir

Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to supporters of the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington
Former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice speaks to supporters of the Jewish Primary Day School in Washington

By Arshad Mohammed

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said on Wednesday she resented what she viewed as an attack on her integrity by former Vice President Dick Cheney in his just-published memoir.

Speaking in an interview with Reuters, Rice rejected Cheney's contention that she misled President George W. Bush about nuclear diplomacy with North Korea.

"I kept the president fully and completely informed about every in and out of the negotiations with the North Koreans," Rice said in her first public comments on the matter. "You can talk about policy differences without suggesting that your colleague somehow misled the president. You know, I don't appreciate the attack on my integrity that that implies."

Rice, in a telephone interview, also disputed a passage in Cheney's memoir, "In My Time," in which he says the secretary of state "tearfully admitted" that the Bush administration should not have apologized for a claim in Bush's 2003 State of the Union address on Iraq's supposed search for uranium for nuclear arms.

Cheney, who opposed a public apology for the unfounded claim, wrote that Rice "came into my office, sat down in the chair next to my desk, and tearfully admitted I had been right."

"It certainly doesn't sound like me, now, does it?" Rice said in the interview. "I would never -- I don't remember coming to the vice president tearfully about anything in the entire eight years that I knew him."

"I did say to him that he had been right about the press reaction" to the administration's acknowledgment that the remarks about Iraq seeking uranium in Africa should not have been in Bush's speech, Rice said.

"And so I did say to the vice president, 'you know, you were right about the press reaction.' But I am quite certain that I didn't do it tearfully," she said.

Rice is the latest former senior Bush aide to fire back at Cheney's memoir and its characterization of the vice president's bureaucratic rivals.

Rice's predecessor, former secretary of state Colin Powell, on Sunday said Cheney's book levels "cheap shots" at colleagues and mischaracterizes events.

Rice said she believes her last contact with Cheney was at the groundbreaking ceremony for Bush's presidential library.

Asked if Cheney were trying to settle scores, Rice said, "I am not going to question the vice president's motives, because he is somebody with whom I had a good relationship and for whom I had, and still have, a great deal of respect."

"But I have to say that some of the things that he said about his colleagues are not in keeping with the high respect that I have always had for him," she added. "I think they do fall into the category of cheap shots."

Rice played down speculation that she might be asked to serve as a Republican vice presidential candidate in 2012. "I am not cut out for such things," she said.

When a reporter pointed out that this was not an absolute, Shermanesque denial, she laughed and replied: "No, no no. I am a happy university professor... We'll all find great candidates. I won't be one of them."

(Writing by Warren Strobel; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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