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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 December 2005, 23:16 GMT
Rice wins praise after first year
By Jonathan Beale
BBC state department correspondent, Washington

Condoleezza Rice
Rice has put diplomacy at the heart of her strategy
As Condoleezza Rice nears the end of her first year as US secretary of state, her approval ratings are high.

Opinion polls show more than two-thirds of Americans think that she is doing a good job.

Her achievements include brokering a deal allowing Palestinians access in and out of Gaza, and helping persuade Syria to leave Lebanon.

But many key issues remain unresolved, not least the threat from Iran and North Korea's nuclear programmes.

There is no doubt that Ms Rice's appointment has reinvigorated the influence and importance of the state department, after years of losing out to a more powerful Pentagon.

Diplomatic revival

From the start America's first black woman secretary of state promised to put diplomacy at the forefront of US foreign policy, and so far has largely remained true to her word.

The US has reached out to its European allies, most notably backing the European Union's efforts to persuade Iran not to pursue uranium enrichment.

Lebanese civilians wave as Syrian troops pull out of Lebanon
US pressure helped force Syrian troops to leave Lebanon

Ms Rice has worked closely with France through the United Nations to force Syria to withdraw its military presence from Lebanon.

Despite unease in Washington at China's growing military and economic might, US diplomats have relied on Beijing to exert its influence on North Korea to halt its nuclear programme.

All these key issues remain unresolved but after the isolation over Iraq it is evidence that the US is now more reluctant to go it alone.

But tensions remain over the treatment of terror suspects and America has still to repair its damaged image around the globe, caused by its decision to invade Iraq.

Ms Rice, like her president, makes no apologies but justifies the invasion in the context of spreading democracy and freedom. That goal, though, has still to take root.

Ms Rice's presence on the international stage may have reassured many Americans, but she has still to persuade a more sceptical world that her appointment is making a significant difference.

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