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Secretary Powell Press Briefings, 14, 17 September

Secretary Powell Press Briefings, 14th and 17th September


U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release September 17, 2001

On-The-Record Briefing by Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

September 17, 2001 1:42 p.m. EDT Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Sorry I'm a little late. I just got off the phone with the President of Yemen, President Salih, and we had a good conversation about the support that Yemen is giving to us in this crisis. They have been very helpful recently in the continuation of the Cole investigation and now are helping us with respect to leads in this current crisis, the September 11th incident.

He also mentioned to me that the President of Syria is visiting and that later this afternoon the two presidents will issue a joint statement, once again condemning the actions of last week, condemning those who are responsible for it, condemning terrorism, and committing themselves to work with us in the days and weeks ahead as we deal with this problem.

This expression of support is characteristic of the expressions of support we have continued to receive as we call leaders around the world and as we begin this building of a coalition, a coalition that will be conducting a campaign, a campaign that will have many parts to it, as I have said to you before, legal, political, diplomatic, law enforcement, intelligence collection, and military as appropriate. And so I am pleased that the coalition is coming together.

I think everybody recognizes that this challenge is one that went far beyond America, far beyond New York City and far beyond Washington. Thirty-seven countries lost citizens in the World Trade Center, and what we have to do is not only deal with this present instance but the whole concept of terrorism, deal with it as a scourge upon civilization and go after it.

But in the first round of this campaign, we have to deal with the perpetrators of the attacks against America in New York and in Washington. It is becoming clearer with each passing hour, with each passing day, that it is the al-Qaida network that is the prime suspect, as the President has said. And all roads lead to the leader of that organization, Usama bin Laden, and his location in Afghanistan. That is why we are pleased that the Pakistani Government sent emissaries in to try to persuade the Afghans, the Taliban leadership, that they should do what they have been required to do for a number of years under UN resolutions and reject this presence in their country, this invasion of their country by a terrorist organization.

We mean no ill toward the people of Afghan; they are a suffering people, they are a poor people. It is for that reason alone they should not allow these invaders to put their society at risk and to connect themselves to the government of Afghanistan.

So I am very pleased that more and more people around the world recognize the nature of this campaign, recognize that we have to get involved, recognize it is not going to be solved in one day or one week, but will be a long-term campaign. As the President and other government officials have indicated earlier, we are also doing everything necessary to protect ourselves here at home and to put ourselves on the right kind of security footing so that we can be vigilant and alert to the threats that still exist within the country or may be directed at us in the future.

With that, I will take a few questions. I am once again under a time limit.

QUESTION: Is it too early -- do you have any indications of how the message is being received by Taliban? The Saudi Foreign Minister is coming here Wednesday, and could you tell us what you will ask of the Saudis and, whatever they do, would you prefer this time that they be explicit?

SECRETARY POWELL: I always like explicit rather than vague, and I look forward to seeing Foreign Minister Saud when he comes here. I have spoken to him, I guess it was last Thursday or Friday -- I'm losing track of the days -- and so I expect he will be forthcoming. I expect he will be coming with a message of support and commitment.

I know that they are looking at a number of ways in which they can help us, and we will welcome that help and assistance. They are good friends of ours. They have condemned this act from the very outset, from the very beginning, from last Wednesday morning on. I am sure he is coming with a message of continued support and commitment, but I don't want to get into what specifically we might be asking of them.

QUESTION: Any early indications of what Taliban is saying?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Taliban, of course, is responding in the way that it always has, that Usama bin Laden and his associates are guests in their country. Well, it is time for the guests to leave.

QUESTION: First of all, the Pakistanis are saying that there was a deadline of three days to hand over Usama bin Laden. Is that true?

SECRETARY POWELL: Whose deadline?

QUESTION: The deadline for the Taliban to turn over Usama bin Laden.

SECRETARY POWELL: The Pakistanis gave them a deadline?

QUESTION: Yes. Well, that's what I'm asking. Is it a Pakistani --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know if that is the case that the Pakistanis actually said that and whether they said it in their own name or whose name, but it wasn't in our name.

QUESTION: And secondly, have you made specific and formal requests to all frontline states around Afghanistan, including Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have not made specific requests for assistance. Those requests are being considered now by our intelligence, law enforcement and military communities to see what might be needed as we put our contingency plans together. Nothing has been asked of Iran, in particular.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether this government intends to contact the Taliban and to give either an ultimatum, or whatever words you care to choose of the language? Can you deal with these people?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am sure there will be some communication in the future, but I would not like to characterize what that communication might be yet.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you put the pieces of your diplomatic puzzle together, what is the -- could you sort of elaborate for us on the importance that Saudi Arabia, Morocco and other Islamic states play within the Arab world in sort of building this international consensus?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think they are important, not only those specific countries but all countries, Arab and otherwise -- but especially Arab to come out and condemn this kind of activity, because this is a threat to their own countries. There isn't one of them you mentioned that hasn't faced some kind of terrorist attack against their legitimacy, against their own sovereignty. And so it is important for them to speak out, especially when we have seen the strong statements from Pakistan. And I think Pakistan would like to see other Arab and Islamic countries speak out and act in as strong a way as Pakistan has.

And, you know, Uzbekistan has been rather forthcoming and others have been rather forthcoming. I think, as the days go by and as the various plans come together, you will see more and more of them speaking out. The UAE has said that it is reviewing its relationship with Taliban activities within the UAE and we will see where that leads. The Sudan has become suddenly much more interested and active in working with us on various items. So there are a lot of things that are going on that will become more manifest as time goes on.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, did you get the time to talk to the Greek Foreign Minister, Yeoryios Papandreou, for this cause?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I did. I did. I talked to my colleague, Yeoryios Papandreou, over the weekend. I can get the specific date for you. Richard has a rather imposing list of phone calls, but I can no longer remember which day -- it was over the weekend -- both to my Greek and to my Turkish colleagues on the same day.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is turning over Usama bin Laden enough? Are there other things the Taliban will also have to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are after the al-Qaida network. It is not one individual; it's lots of individuals and it's lots of cells. As I said on television yesterday, Usama bin Laden is the chairman of a holding company and within that holding company are terrorist cells and organizations in dozens of countries around the world, any one of them capable of committing a terrorist act. So it is not enough to get one individual, although we will start with that one individual. It will not be over until we have gotten into the inside of this organization, inside its decision cycle, inside its planning cycle, inside its execution capability, and until we have neutralized and destroyed it. That is our objective.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Taliban today is apparently offering that an Islamic -- a court of Islamic clerics would determine the fate of bin Laden and that they would accept that outcome. But this is something they've offered before and the US rejected it before. I want to know if that's -- if that's still your feeling, if that has any kind of flexibility. And also, is there an interagency team planning to go into Pakistan any time soon?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the first point, I will wait and see what they end up doing and what that court decides, once it has convened in whatever fashion it convenes itself and whatever action it takes. I don't want to prejudge what we might do in response to what it might do.

With respect to an interagency team going to Pakistan, we are making a determination now and will take a day or two or a couple of days as to what we might want to ask the Pakistanis for and, when that has been determined, then we will form a team appropriate to that task.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you certain that Usama bin Laden is still in Afghanistan and are you confident that the Taliban could actually find him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't be certain of where he is. I am reasonably confident and certain that if the Taliban government wanted to find him, they would know where he is, if he is still in Afghanistan, and I have seen nothing to indicate he is not still in Afghanistan.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how do you plan to follow up on the positive signals being sent from Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: From Iran?

QUESTION: Yes.

SECRETARY POWELL: As I said yesterday, these are positive signals, and I've had it reinforced that it is a positive signal. And it is worth exploring, and that is where I would leave it right now, not move it any further than that -- worth exploring. Remember now, as you surely do, that Iran is a nation we have designated as sponsoring state terrorism. And they may want to make cause against the Taliban, but will they make cause against other terrorist organizations that they have provided support to?

And I am willing to explore that, but let's not get any further than that. Some suggested that they are part of the coalition, they're going to be partners. Not so fast. We recognize the nature of that regime. They have said something that is different than what we have heard from them previously. They, too, are shocked by what happened, they tell us. And so it seems to me that is an opening worth exploring, and that is as far as we go right now.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, who has not responded well? What countries have disappointed you in their response? And secondly, last week Deputy Defense Secretary Wolfowitz used the phrase "ending regimes that sponsor terrorism." No Administration official has repeated that formula. Are we really after ending regimes, or are we simply going to try to change their behavior?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are after ending terrorism. And if there are states and regimes, nations, that support terrorism, we hope to persuade them that it is in their interests to stop doing that. But I think ending terrorism is where I would like to leave it, and let Mr. Wolfowitz speak for himself.

QUESTION: What countries have fallen short, let's say?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I really don't have a list of fall-shorts. Some have been able to do more than others. Some it is rhetorical in nature and they really don't have much else to give us other than words of support and encouragement. Others it is far more than that, to the point of if you have to something militarily, ask us if we can participate.

So it is a full range. But within the capabilities that they have, I am satisfied, very satisfied, with most of the responses that I have received. Where there is an opportunity for a country to do more and they haven't yet offered to do more, I would rather deal with them rather than single them out.

One more, then I've got to go.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, NATO said they would be with us, but apparently Italy -- there was a statement this morning that Italy would not participate militarily in any sort of action. And there have been some countries in the Middle East and elsewhere that have expressed concern that this is going to be too broad a campaign and they want it to be very narrowly focused, and they're nervous.

What would you say to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are sensitive to all those concerns. I heard something quite different from Italy, but my Italian colleague will be here this week so Renato and I can talk directly. And we --

QUESTION: If I could follow on that --

SECRETARY POWELL: Hold on, hold on. Pushy, pushy. Now I forgot the question. Next?

(Laughter.)

QUESTION: The question was --

SECRETARY POWELL: Jane, pick it up.

QUESTION: The Taliban -- you just said a little earlier that there will be communication but you would prefer not to characterize it, yet yesterday I think you said that in a couple of days the United States would be talking to the Taliban.

Are you suggesting here that the first communication will be military rather than anything else?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I think both statements are consistent -- communication, contact.

QUESTION: So when will the United States be talking to the Taliban? Will we be sending someone in from Islamabad?

SECRETARY POWELL: That's what I also said today, that I am not prepared to comment on the modalities or when or under what set of circumstances or what the nature of the communication will be, because that is still being resolved.

Okay, Barbara. Do you remember what the question was? I remember the answer.

QUESTION: I do. The second part of the question -- forgive me, as an ex-New Yorker -- was about Israel. Ariel Sharon has not been terribly helpful, it seems, in this. A lot of Arab countries are saying we have to do something about this conflict and we have to restrain Sharon or a coalition isn't going to fly.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we do have to do something about the situation in the Middle East. I carve out part of my day to press and work on that. Prime Minister Sharon and I had a very long phone conversation last night, and we talked about his latest approach of his son and an official from the Ministry visiting with Chairman Arafat and talking about how this series of meetings could get started.

And I never lose sight of the fact that one of the underlying continuing problems we will have -- we had it before 11 September, we're going to have it for the foreseeable future -- is that we have to get into the Mitchell plan and we have to get back to negotiations in due course. And so I can assure you I haven't taken the United States' eye off that ball.

I do have to go. Thank you.

(The briefing was concluded at 1:58 p.m.)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release September 14, 2001

ON-THE-RECORD BRIEFING BY SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL

September 14, 2001 2:15 p.m. EDT Washington, D.C.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I will be brief today because of time constraints, and I have a phone call coming in just a few moments. So I will give you a short statement of just what we have been doing in the State Department over the last 24 hours, take a couple of questions, and then I regret I'll have to leave.

We continue to work hard to build the coalition that you've heard me talking about for the last several days and to get this campaign plan in place. We talked about it at the Cabinet meeting this morning. The President is very pleased with the work that the Cabinet has been doing, and we can start to see the air traffic system come back up, begin to see the relief efforts picking up speed.

We are very grateful for the resolution that has come from the Senate and the support that the Congress is giving to our efforts. It shows the United States as a nation, as a people, coming together in this time of crisis, and showing our determination to move forward deliberately and decisively to deal with this particular incident, as well as the broader threat represented by world terrorism.

I have been in touch with a number of officials in addition to the Cabinet meeting and the very moving memorial service that we just had up at the National Cathedral earlier in the morning. I spoke to the Foreign Minister of India, Mr. Singh, and I was very pleased to receive an exceptionally strong statement of support from the Indian Government. We had heard that previously, but he confirmed it this morning.

I have also had conversations with the Portuguese Foreign Minister, the Saudi Foreign Minister, Moroccan and Tunisian Foreign Ministers, my colleague Foreign Minister Tanaka of Japan. I'll be speaking to the Israeli Defense Minister in a few moments, and I have a call in to the Syrian Foreign Minister. And this will continue throughout the day for me.

But beyond that, we have instructed our ambassadors around the world to go in and talk to their colleagues in those capitals to let them know how serious we are about this and begin to set the stage for any other requests we might have for them with respect to what we do as we go forward.

In addition, our regional assistant secretaries here in the State Department have been inviting in ambassadors resident here in Washington to discuss the situation with them and to receive any questions they may have and to pass on any guidance that we have available to them.

As you know, we are waiting to hear from President Musharraf of Pakistan, and I am quite encouraged that the Pakistani Government is taking this so seriously and so deliberately. And our Ambassador is waiting for a reaction from them.

I might also say that I am pleased at the actions of the Australian Government in activating the ANZUS Treaty as an expression of support, and a little similar to what NATO did. But those alliances that we hold dear and have used so effectively to keep us together as friendly nations over these many years, are now, it seems to me, paying off as people come forward to help us.

I'm also pleased at expressions of support we have received from countries such as Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan and others are coming in. I don't have all of them on my list or in my memory, and Richard Boucher will, in the course of the day, let you know who we have heard from and what kind of responses we have received from them.

And let me just stop there and take a couple of questions before I have to make a phone call.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, any indications of what the Pakistani -- whether you get a positive response from Pakistan? You're going to call the Syrian; any indications yet of their position?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. The Syrians, President Assad sent to President Bush a very strong letter of support and efforts against terrorism. Now, of course we have had a mixed relationship with Syria over the years, and in the course of my conversation, hopefully, this afternoon, with my colleague, I'll pursue the spirit of the letter that President Assad sent to President Bush and see where that takes us.

QUESTION: And any indications from the Pakistanis, even though there is no final answer?

SECRETARY POWELL: So far I am very encouraged, but I think it's best that I do wait for a final answer.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Indian media says that that government handed over some maps to you today of guerilla camps and other training areas that Afghanistan is said to be using.

Can you confirm that that's --

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't confirm it. I just don't know. Richard can chase that down for you, but I can't confirm it here. It wasn't mentioned to me in my phone call at about 9:00 or 9:30 or 10:00, whenever I had it, or about 10:30, I guess it was, with the Indian Foreign Minister.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we have heard a lot -- yourself and other Cabinet members and officials say as we reach out to countries and ask for help, you're either with us or you're against us. Now, of course we hope that all countries would be with us, but if we ask for something from a country, we ask them to root out terrorism in all its forms or to provide logistical or any type of other support that we need for any eventual military response, if they decline, if they say that they won't do what the US asks, what are the consequences for "being against us"?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have to be careful as we go forward, and we intend to be. We are talking with countries that are friendly to us and we will present requests to them and see what they are able to do within their capacity and within their political circumstances. But if we find a particular country, especially those that might be serving as a haven or is a well known supporter of this kind of activity, and they are simply unresponsive, and we deem that unresponsiveness to be contributing to additional terrorism or to the fertile ground in which terrorism thrives, then that will certainly affect the kind of relationship we are going to have with them in the future.

I am not threatening so much as I am saying this has become a new benchmark, a new way of measuring the relationship and what we can do together in the future and what kind of support we can provide to you in the future across the whole range of issues and activities.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, for the last two days you've been saying how important you think it is that despite the events here, the tragic events here, that it is still very, very important for the Israelis and the Palestinians to have high-level meetings between Chairman Arafat and Foreign Minister Peres. Now Prime Minister Sharon has now called that meeting off.

And secondly, you're speaking to the Israeli Defense Minister later. Are you going to bring up his comments that were quoted in an Israeli newspaper this morning in which he said that the disasters in New York and here were a catastrophe for Arafat because the Israelis had killed 14 Palestinians since then and no one had noticed?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what we will discuss. I haven't seen those comments, but I know him rather well and I'm sure we'll have many things to discuss. But I won't prejudge what I might raise or what he might raise and announce it before he raises it or I raise it.

I would still hope that a way is found for the Israelis and the Palestinians to meet. When they meet is a judgment for them to make. We have two leaders who have to judge their own interests. We believe a meeting is important to get the process started. This conflict isn't going away and I don't think it's going to be solved by continuing conflict between the two sides. So I hope that conditions will present themselves soon so that a meeting can begin.

But I think it is also fair to say that the events of the 11th of September have fundamentally changed the way in which people look at terrorism and acts of terrorism.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, as your strategy to fight global terrorism begins to take shape and as these international coalitions that you have been trying to build solidify, it is obviously a very different war that you are preparing to fight in that the enemy is not in one country. Could you explain this to us?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I was raised a soldier and you are trained: there is the enemy occupying a piece of ground. We can define it in time, space and other dimensions, and you can assemble forces and go after it. This is different. The enemy is in many places. The enemy is not looking to be found. The enemy is hidden. The enemy is very often right here within our own country. And so you have to design a campaign plan that goes after that kind of enemy, and it isn't always blunt force military, although that is certainly an option. It may well be that the diplomatic efforts, political efforts, legal, financial, other efforts, may be just as effective against that kind of an enemy as would military force be.

And the point the President made this morning is that the whole Cabinet is involved, and we are going to use all the tools and weapons at our disposal to fight this campaign and to win this war.

I only have time for one more, and I apologize.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have a message for the Taliban?

SECRETARY POWELL: The message is: To the extent that you are providing havens, support, encouragement and other resources to organizations such as the organization headed by Mr. Usama bin Laden that is attacking civilization, that is killing innocent people -- and I would give this message to any other regime and other country that might be doing similar things --to the extent that you are doing these sorts of things, even though we have not yet -- notwithstanding words like "prime suspect," we have not yet identified Usama bin Laden as the direct perpetrator, but we have a lot of evidence that is mounting which will allow us to determine in the near future who it is.

But he certainly is the leader of that kind of organization, and to the extent that governments such as the Taliban government in Afghanistan supports such things, you need to understand you cannot separate your activities from the activity of these perpetrators. And in our response, we will have to take into account not only the perpetrators, but those who provide haven, support, inspiration, financial and other assets to the perpetrators, as the President said in his very first set of remarks some days ago.

Thank you. I do have to go.

(The briefing was concluded at 2:30 p.m.)

###


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