[QUOTE]Condoleezza Rice was George Bush's handmaiden for the war in Iraq but she is now emerging as the best hope for avoiding a military conflict between the United States and Iran.
The Secretary of State, who is one of the few people with the President's ear, has shown the door to Vice-President Dick Cheney's cabal of war-hungry advisers. Ms Rice was able to declare yesterday that the administration's decision to break with past policy proves that there is international unity in opposing Iran's nuclear programme. "The point that we're making is the United States is firmly behind this diplomacy, firmly behind and unified with our allies and hopefully the Iranians will take that message," Ms Rice said.
Mr Bush's decision to send the number three in the State Department, William Burns, to attend talks with Iran in Geneva at the weekend caused howls of outrage that were heard all the way from the State Department's sanctuary of Foggy Bottom to the White House on Pennsylvania Avenue. A parallel initiative to reopen the interest's section of the American embassy in Tehran, which would be the first return of a diplomatic presence on Iranian territory since 1979, has also received a cool response from neo-conservatives.
"This is a complete capitulation on the whole idea of suspending enrichment," said Mr Bush's former UN envoy, John Bolton. "Just when the administration has no more U-turns to pull, it does another."
In public, Ms Rice has been as bellicose as any neo-con when it comes to Iran, calling dialogue with its leaders "pointless" and declaring: "For the sake of peace, the world must not allow Iran to have nuclear weapons."
She had been the prime mover behind Mr Bush's disastrous policy of "preventive wars" and cheerleader of his expansive plans to reorganise the entire Middle East and to "export democracy". But with the rumblings of war with Iran growing steadily louder, Ms Rice worked feverishly behind the scenes to stop sparks from flying in the drive by the US and Israel to shut down Iran's nuclear programme.
The breakthrough, if that is what it turns out to be, that persuaded Mr Bush that it was time to end the 30-year boycott of high-level diplomatic contacts with Iran, came from the simple act of Ms Rice signing her name to a joint letter offering sweeter terms to Tehran than it had seen before.
The very act of putting her name to a package of incentives presented in Tehran last month persuaded the Iranian authorities that there was movement that would allow them to proclaim victory over the US, while ending their nuclear programme.
When he saw Ms Rice's signature on the document, Iran's Foreign Minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, was visibly stunned, according to those present at the meeting. He formally responded to the offer with a letter addressed to Ms Rice and the EU's foreign policy envoy, Javier Solana, as well as foreign ministers of the five other countries at the talks.
His letter skirted around the hot-button issue of Iran's uranium enrichment programme, but it contained an olive branch of an offer to "find common ground through logical and constructive actions", according to reports.
Hearing of Mr Mottaki's reaction and then receiving a formal response persuaded Ms Rice that Iran was finally willing to have meaningful talks with the US that could avoid a war.
Before approaching the President with a plan to avoid war in the last six months of his presidency, Ms Rice had to persuade Mr Cheney, chief among those described as the "Vulcans" of his administration. She made her pitch at a meeting that included Mr Cheney, Stephen Hadley, the national security adviser, Joshua Bolton, the White House Chief of Staff, and Mr Burns, who is heading to Geneva at the weekend to take part in the "one time only deal".
Iran welcomed the American change of attitude yesterday, but with governments from France to China also welcoming the shift, Tehran also signalled that there was a long way to go before the diplomats break out the champagne. Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that there are still "clearly defined red lines", meaning that Iran is insisting that it has the right to peaceful nuclear energy. This is a position that Israel and the American conservatives still find unacceptable.
Thirty years on from the humiliation of the US embassy hostage crisis in Tehran, the country's boycott of all high-level direct contact with Iran has achieved little beyond making it impossible for the two sides to learn to trust one another and employ diplomatic skills to avoid conflict.
But there are also doubts about the effectiveness of using sophisticated weaponry against a nuclear programme that is secreted deep underground and in multiple sitesacross Iran. The US administration was recently advised that it would be folly to expect the regime to fall in Iran if it was attacked. If anything, a US and Israeli attack would strengthen the rule of the mullahs while causing further tension on the oil market.
From hawk to dove
Condoleezza Rice may have a bright political future ahead, despite the many roles she has played in the discredited Bush White House. Her soundbites have often come back to haunt her. She wilfully distorted the truth while pressing the case for the invasion of Iraq: "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.
" No one, she declared, "could have predicted" that al-Qai'da would try to fly planes into buildings before 11 September 2001; "I'm proud of the decision of this administration to overthrow Saddam Hussein," she said. And when George Bush asked her about the looming war saying: "Should we do this?", Ms Rice replied in a heartbeat "Yes."
The book Rise of the Vulcans, by James Mann, describes Ms Rice as a major player in the Iraq war, detailing how she served as the White House co-ordinator and as the President's closest adviser, throughout the entire operation. Despite this, the future looks bright for the 52-year-old. Stopping a war with Iran could even catapult her into the vice-presidency under a John McCain presidency.[/QUOTE]
SHANGHAI: South Korean man Kim Soo Seok, 44, faced a trial Tuesday at the Shanghai No 1 Intermediate People's Court for kidnapping, together with his two Chinese accessories Jin Mingyu and Chi Minhao who were charged with illegal detention.This is the first kidnapping case involving a foreigner in Shanghai.Kim was accused of plotting to[URL=http://www.fast-wowgold.com/]FFXI Gil[/URL] kidnap another South Korean man and demanding a ransom of 300 million won ($295,000), the court was told Tuesday.On December 24, under the order of the second defendant Jin Mingyu, Chi Minhao, a 29-year-old Korean minority from Jilin province, contacted Jean Moon Gyun, a 23-year-old South Korean studying at the Shanghai University of Sport.Chi told Jean that a friend of his father's [URL=http://www.fcsgame.com/dofus-kamas.htm]dofus kamas[/URL]was visiting Shanghai and wanted to meet him, the prosecutor said.Jean's father, Jean Sam Duck, is the president of a taekwondo association in Gyeongsangnam-do, a province in the southeast of South Korea, and owns several properties, Kim's attorney Yin Yongyu told China Daily. Jean Sam Duck also has a fast food business, Kim told the court.Jean Moon Gyun arrived at a coffee house in the city's suburban Minhang district that evening and met Chi, and was later taken to an apartment nearby.He was detained by force until being released by police on the afternoon of December 26."I have never attempted to insult[URL=http://www.fcsgame.com/]world of warcraft gold[/URL] him or hurt him physically," Chi told the court.During the three days, Kim called Jean's parents back in South Korea and told them he had their son and wanted 300 million won.The parents called the Shanghai police. And the gang was seized.Kim pleaded guilty at the court Tuesday but explained he had wanted to claim a debt for a friend.Kim said his friend Kim Sang Kyu owed him 15 million won."He borrowed the money 10 years ago," he said.Kim said he was in a very bad [URL=http://www.fcsgame.com/]wow gold[/URL]financial condition since last year and needed the money."Kim Sang Kyu told me that he knew a friend who had loaned Jean Sam Duck 300 million won," he said."If I could claim it back, I could have half of it, and he told me Jean has a son studying in Shanghai."Kim Soo Seok came to Shanghai in November and began to prepare the kidnapping around December 20.He told Jin Mingyu, whom he worked with at [URL=http://www.fast-wowgold.com/age-of-conan-gold.htm]age of Conan gold[/URL]Kim Sang Kyu's Shanghai company, and Chi Minhao that he would give them 200,000 yuan each if they could get back the 300 million won.But Jean Sam Duck said Tuesday he had never owed anyone 300 million won. In stead, Kim, who get to know him by attending some taekwondo activities, had asked to borrow 15 million won from him in last June but was refused.No verdict has been announced yet