World Video | Defence | Foreign Affairs | Natural Events | Trade | NZ in World News | NZ National News Video | NZ Regional News | Search


Powell on NBC's Meet The Press and Fox News

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release December 16, 2001


Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell On NBC's Meet The Press With Tim Russert

December 16, 2001 Washington, D.C.

10:30 a.m. EST

QUESTION: Joining us now, the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Mr. Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Tim.

QUESTION: Reports on the wires that al-Qaida has fallen, that the Eastern Alliance Afghan troops, along with US bombing, have destroyed them. They are either dead or taken captive. And yet, no sign of Usama bin Laden. What can you tell us?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can tell you that that part of the campaign is going very well. Al-Qaida is, if not totally destroyed, well on the way to being destroyed in Afghanistan. Let's remember that there are many al-Qaida cells still active around the world that we will have to go after. This is a long-term campaign.

With respect to Usama bin Laden, we have no reason to believe that he has either been killed or captured yet, of course. We don't know where he is at this moment. He might still be in that area that the Eastern Alliance forces are closing in on. He might be somewhere else. We don't know.

QUESTION: There were reports a few days ago there was a voice heard on some intercepted communications. They thought it was Usama bin Laden, but it could have been the old trick of playing a pre-recorded tape just to throw us off.

SECRETARY POWELL: It could have been that. It could have been him. It's not known. And we have never been able to confirm that it was his voice. So there was a report that is out there. It's about five or six days old now. So I don't think it's fresh information that is targetable.

QUESTION: Sixty-two percent of the American people tell Newsweek Magazine that unless we get Usama bin Laden, this will not have been a successful operation. Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it will be a successful operation because we've destroyed al-Qaida in Afghanistan and we have ended the role of Afghanistan as a haven for terrorist activity. That is a success.

We, of course, want Usama bin Laden and as President Bush said, we will get him. Whether we get him this week, next week, whether it takes us one year or two years, we will bring him to justice or justice will be brought to him. And the American people have been told by the President we need to understand that we have to be patient. But as far as his effectiveness in Afghanistan, as the head of this organization, that has been destroyed. Now we have to go after the rest of the organization.

That is why the President has made it clear from the very beginning; this is not a one-shot deal. It is a long-term campaign against terrorism, and the first phase of it is against al-Qaida and we are being very successful in this first phase.

QUESTION: US troops will stay in Afghanistan for the unforeseen future?

SECRETARY POWELL: US troops will stay there until they have accomplished their mission, which is to defeat the Taliban -- well under way -- destroy al-Qaida -- well under way -- and do everything they can to find Usama bin Laden. There will come a time when that mission will have been completed. The international security force is arriving under a UN mandate, and I expect that most US troops will leave at that time, although some troops may remain involved in enabling the international security force to get in and to help sustain them.

QUESTION: We will not be part of the UN security force?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't expect that you will see US combat troops there for any length of time as part of that international security force. But to get that kind of a force into a remote place like Afghanistan, the US has certain capabilities that I am sure will be called upon by the force and by the United Nations.

QUESTION: On Thursday, our government released a tape that had been found in Afghanistan of Usama bin Laden. I want to show you just a small portion of that right now, and for our viewers as well.

Colin Powell, why is that man laughing?

SECRETARY POWELL: He is laughing because he has been responsible for the death of thousands of innocent citizens and, in his warped, evil mind, he thinks this is some reflection of a faith, a faith that he has degraded, a faith that tolerates no such action. He is taking credit and he is sharing and laughing, gleefully enjoying the fact that he was responsible for the loss of thousands of lives. And as more and more people see this tape and more and more people later that evening or the next day reflect on the nature of this man, the nature of his cause, they will see how truly evil he is and this cause is. And I am sure that more and more people will understand the importance of us sticking with this campaign against his organization and similar organizations that kill innocent people in the name of false causes.

QUESTION: When you first saw him in that tape, what was your physical, emotional reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mad. Absolutely outraged to listen to this man talk this way and to claim that he was representing some faith: Incarnate evil right there. No question about it.

QUESTION: I want to show you a photograph of Zacarias Moussaoui. He is the so-called twentieth hijacker. He never got onboard a plane but has been indicted now. And yet he will be part of our criminal justice system; he will not be a military tribunal person. Why?

SECRETARY POWELL: As the President has always said and the Attorney General has always said, there are many tools available to the United States Government to bring people to justice. And because the President created the option of using a military tribunal did not mean that all other ways of bringing someone to justice were null and void. And so in this instance, the Attorney General and the US attorneys responsible for this case made a judgment that it was appropriate to bring him before a court of law, civil court of law as opposed to a military tribunal. It seems perfectly reasonable to me. The President always said the tribunal was an option in those unique cases requiring the particularities, the particular aspects of a military tribunal. So I don't see anything terribly unusual about what the Attorney General did.

QUESTION: Democratic Joe Lieberman, Democratic Senator, had this to say, and I'll put it on the screen: If we will not try Zacarias Moussaoui before a military tribunal, a non-citizen alleged to be a co-conspirator in the attacks that killed 4,000 Americans, who will we try in a military tribunal?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will try who the President determines needs to be tried before a military tribunal. Because there are certain circumstances with respect to sources and methods and with respect to the nature of the charges against that individual as appropriate and based on the recommendations that the President will receive from the Attorney General and I'm sure the Secretary of Defense and others. So it is not a one-size-fits-all, because you are a non-alien, you suddenly go before your -- or, rather, you're an alien and you suddenly go before a military tribunal. That is what justice is all about. Look at the circumstances, look at the case, look at the evidence, look at what we're trying to accomplish and put it before the right forum.

QUESTION: I want to show you John Walker. This is a man who, at age 20, decided to fight against the United States of America, to fight for the Taliban. When you were 20 years old, you were actively considering -- well on your way to a military career. What is your sense of John Walker?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know enough about this young man to make a judgment. All I know is that in a misguided manner, he went and joined the Taliban. But once it became clear at the very beginning of this campaign that he was now going to be fighting against America, his own nation, that was a time for him to leave this. And so now he is going to have to pay the consequences of his action.

QUESTION: Is he a traitor?

SECRETARY POWELL: I will let a court decide that. But, certainly, it would -- based on what I have seen so far, his actions would move in that direction. But I would let a court make a judgment. I think he has shamed himself, he has shamed his family and now he has to pay the consequences for his action.

QUESTION: He is talking to US officials. Could he help himself by giving information?

SECRETARY POWELL: It depends on what information he might have that would be useful. But I would encourage him to cooperate in every possible way as he is being interrogated by US authorities.

QUESTION: Saudi Arabia. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers were from Saudi Arabia. In that same tape that we've been talking about of Usama bin Laden -- and I am going to show a small piece right now -- here he is walking into the room. He is the taller person heading in there. And now he leans down and hugs this gentleman who is now reported to be legless. At first we were told the gentleman on the right of your screen was Sheikh Gilmati. The New York Times says he is now Khaled al-Harbi from Saudi Arabia.

How did someone with no legs get from Saudi Arabia to Afghanistan in a position to meet and hug Usama bin Laden?

SECRETARY POWELL: Obviously, there is a connection between the two with sufficient formality to it that they were able to transport him there, get him access and move him into the country. And it's troublesome. And I know for a fact that our intelligence agencies are making sure we know who this individual was and are tracing him down and determining what those connections might be and where that trail might take us.

QUESTION: What have the Saudis told you about him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have had no direct discussions with the Saudis about that particular individual, but I'm sure our intelligence agencies are talking to the Saudis about him. We are trying to get a firm identification of him, so there is no question about who we are dealing with.

QUESTION: Let me show some more of this tape, and you'll see it here. Because the conversation is so familiar, "thanks to Allah." What is the stand of the mosque there in Saudi Arabia, bin Laden asks. Then the Sheikh says, they're very positive. Bin Laden: The day of the event, the exact time -- precisely at the same time -- he's trolling for information -- another sheikh, Bahrani, gave a very impressive sermon. Thanks be to Allah, says bin Laden. He told the youth you were asking for martyrdom and wondered where you should go, suggesting they go join bin Laden, and Allah was inciting them to go, thanks be to Allah, bin Laden says. His position is very encouraging. When I paid him the first visit a year ago, he asked me, how is bin Laden. He sends you his special regards.

And then bin Laden goes on, what about Sheikh al-Rayan. And honestly, I didn't have a chance to meet with him, the other fellow says.

In that same interview, bin Laden asks about three or four other sheikhs from Saudi Arabia. It appears that bin Laden is very closely associated with Saudi Arabia, gets a lot of money from there. Isn't that of grave concern to us? And what do we tell the Saudi Government.

SECRETARY POWELL: We talked to the Saudi Government about this. Let's also remind ourselves that the Saudi Government stripped him of his citizenship many years ago and made him an exile in his own country, in his own society, and disavowed him. At the same time, there are connections that are troublesome, and we are in discussions with the Saudis about these various connections and how institutions in Saudi Arabia and charitable organizations in Saudi Arabia have been used over the years to provide financial support to these kinds of organizations. And this is what we are in contact with the Saudis about to pull all of this network up. And the Saudis have been very cooperative. And it is troubling and it is troubling to them as well.

QUESTION: Have the Saudis done everything they should have done to cut off funding for Islamic fundamentalists?

SECRETARY POWELL: At this point, every request we have put before the Saudis, they have responded to positively. They have taken action and they are going to do more as we give them more information to act upon. So they have been cooperative.

They realize this is not just something having to do with the United States; it is a threat to them as well. And if they want to be a responsible member of these coalition and to participate in this campaign against terrorism, they have to do everything that is required, and they have been forthcoming.

QUESTION: Israel. Prime Minister Sharon says that Yasser Arafat is now irrelevant. Do you agree with that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, he is not irrelevant, because he is the head of the Palestinian Authority and made head of the Palestinian Authority through a process that came out of the Oslo Accord of 1993, and it is somebody that we recognize as the head of the Palestinian Authority, and he is seen by the Palestinian people as the leader of the Palestinian people.

But as President Bush said the other day, and we have been saying repeatedly, as the leader, he has to lead. He has to act like a leader. And we have been putting pressure on Mr. Arafat to act like a leader and get this violence under control, to go after these organizations such as Hamas -- terrorist organizations that are destroying the dream of peace for the Palestinian people and the Israeli people.

We created circumstances as recently as just a month ago, when I gave my speech in Louisville, when President Bush spoke at the United Nations General Assembly announcing a vision for a Palestinian state as an American position. We then created a way for the two sides to talk to each other. We sent General Zinni over to try to get that dialogue going. And all of that was blown up by these terrorist organizations on the Palestinian side. They are attacking Mr. Arafat just as surely as they are attacking the people of Israel and the state of Israel. And Mr. Arafat has to act against them.

QUESTION: We have given Mr. Arafat a list of people he should arrest. Has he followed up and arrested those people?

SECRETARY POWELL: The Israelis have identified people who have been involved in this kind of terrorist activity. The names have been passed to the Palestinians and they have not arrested many names on that list. And very often those they do arrest are seen to be free in just a few days' time.

What we said to Mr. Arafat is this isn't going to get us anywhere. And you saw it well up this week when Mr. Sharon took the action that he did. And he has the responsibility to defend the people of Israel and we are going to stay in touch with both sides. As you know, we are bringing General Zinni back for consultations, and he will be home for a while. But we are not disengaging and his mission has not ended. We are just bringing him home for consultation until we can see how circumstances develop over the next several days or weeks and when he might be able to go back and serve a useful purpose.

QUESTION: When you sent General Zinni over as a Mid East envoy, you said he would stay as long as it takes. You have now recalled him.

SECRETARY POWELL: We weren't going to leave him there without ever bringing him home. So he has come home for consultations, but he is still our special envoy for that purpose. And he will do whatever it takes. But, you know, it is not up to General Zinni. The failure is not General Zinni's. It is not the United States Government's.

The failure at this point, on this Sunday morning, the failure is with the parties in the region. Especially, I have to say, on the part of the Palestinians for not getting the violence under control. If the violence gets under control, goes down to zero or as near zero as you can make it, and when you speak out against this kind of violence, when you stop incitement in the press and when you show this kind of positive movement to get the violence down, then I think you will get a response from the Israeli side and we can start to move forward.

Mr. Arafat will be speaking to his people today and let's hope he gives them that message.

QUESTION: Will Arafat survive this?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. Many people have written him off previously. But he is still here and he is still recognized as the leader of the Palestinian people.

QUESTION: India and Pakistan. The Indian parliament was blown up. People were killed, parts of it. The Indian Government said Pakistanis did this, they found the bodies of the terrorists, they were Pakistani citizens, and that Pakistan must move against two terrorist organizations that live in and are harbored, they say, by the Pakistani government. The Indian Government is threatening retaliation.

Would we allow, accept, understand, if the Indian Government retaliated against Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is important to note that President Musharraf immediately -- the President of Pakistan, immediately condemned the attacks in New Delhi and said that he is taking action against the two organizations that have been tentatively identified as terrorist organizations that might have been responsible for this.

I think the Indian Government clearly has the legitimate right of self-defense. But I think we have to be very careful in this instance because if, in the exercise of that right of self-defense we have states going after each other, we could create a much more difficult situation, a situation that could spiral out of control. So we are encouraging both sides to share information with each other and to come together in this campaign against terrorism and not escalate it to a level where it could get out of control.

QUESTION: How dangerous is the situation now between India and Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is very tense. It has the potential of becoming very dangerous. I think that the Indian Government, Prime Minister Vajpayee, made it clear that he was allowing some time to pass in order to get a reaction from the Pakistani Government. And the Pakistani Government is taking some steps now. But what we don't want to do is to see the rhetoric get so ratcheted up that the rhetoric then is followed by action, which lets the whole situation go out of control.

QUESTION: Iraq. Why do we import a million barrels of oil a day from Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, under the Oil For Food program, Iraq is allowed to sell oil as a way of generating income to serve the needs of its people. And we are an energy-consuming nation and we have needs for oil and we get that oil in many places and Iraq is a large provider of oil not only to the United States but to other nations as well. And our imports are controlled under the Oil For Food program which allows civilian goods to go to the people of Iraq and there are rather stringent controls, which are in the process of being tightened even further.

QUESTION: Do you think that is a good policy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is a policy that had to be adopted some years ago in order to let Iraq use its oil to provide for the needs of its people but do it in a way that constrains their ability to develop weapons of mass destruction. A better policy would be not to have an Oil For Food program and to see the Iraqi regime let inspectors in and make sure that they are not developing weapons of mass destruction. And an even better outcome would be for the Iraqi regime to essentially leave power in due course.

QUESTION: Will we insist that Saddam Hussein let the inspectors in?

SECRETARY POWELL: That has been our position and remains our position. It is not just the United States' position; it is the position of the United Nations. And the resolution just reauthorizing the Oil For Food program for another six months makes that point.

QUESTION: But he keeps saying no. Are we endlessly patient?

SECRETARY POWELL: Then the sanctions will remain in place and we will control close to 80 percent of all revenue available to the regime. The other 20 percent is what he gets through various cross-border smuggling and other kinds of activities.

QUESTION: Let me show you what Secretary of Defense -- now Vice President Dick Cheney said back in 1990: It's far better to deal with Saddam now while the international coalition against Iraq is intact than it will be for us to deal with him in five or ten years from now -- which is now -- when the members of the coalition have gone their disparate ways and when Saddam has become even more -- even better armed and more threatening.

In hindsight, should we have not gotten rid of Saddam Hussein ten years ago at the Persian Gulf War?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it would have been desirable if he had not survived the Persian Gulf War. And less than a month after Secretary Cheney said those words, we went into Kuwait and threw the Iraqi army out. We did deal with him at that time. He is no longer the threat to the region that he was ten years ago. We all would have been better off if he had not survived.

But we have to remind everyone that the mission of the coalition and the mission of the operation at that time as authorized by the United Nations, decided by President Bush 41 and by the United States Congress was to kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait and to restore the legitimate government of Kuwait, and all of that has been accomplished.

It has been an untidy ten years since, but at the same time we have succeeded in keeping him constrained but not totally been able to keep him from trying to pursue these weapons of mass destruction. And that's why it is important to try to get the inspectors back in and that's why we continue to believe that a regime change is a sensible US policy.

QUESTION: But we could have finished him off.

SECRETARY POWELL: We could have invaded Iraq and broken up the coalition and destroyed the mandate that was given to us by the UN. But that was never the original intent of the mission and it was not what we set out to do.

QUESTION: Senator John McCain, Senator Jesse Helms, Senator Trent Lott, Senator Richard Shelby, Henry Hyde the Chairman of the House International Relations Committee, wrote a letter to the President. And let me show you on the board. It says: As long as Saddam Hussein is in power in Baghdad, he will seek to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We believe we must directly confront Saddam sooner rather than later. Let us maximize the likelihood of a rapid victory by beginning immediately to assist the Iraqi opposition on the ground inside Iraq, providing them money and assistance already authorized and appropriated.

Congress has authorized and appropriated $97 million to help fund insurgent groups in Iraq. Will the administration give that money out and help foment a revolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: Most of that money has been given out and used, and not directly for the purpose of putting in place an armed opposition inside of Iraq. And we are continuing to examine the feasibility of such options, how such plans might unfold, and staying in touch with not only the members of Congress who signed that letter, but Iraqi opposition leaders. And, in fact, recently an American delegation from the State Department was in northern Iraq discussing activities in that part of Iraq with Kurdish leaders.

So we watch this carefully. We look for opportunities and we understand the sentiment contained in that letter and what the Congress has told us to do with the $97 million that has been appropriated.

QUESTION: Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty. The President has said within six months the United States will withdraw from that treaty. Senator Joe Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said this: Unilaterally abandoning the ABM treaty is a serious mistake. There is no missile defense test the US must conduct in the near future that would require us to walk away from a treaty that has helped keep the peace for the last 30 years. Is that accurate?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't agree with the senator. The fact of the matter is, sooner or later a test will come along, whether it is in the next six months, eight months, nine months, ten months, a test will come along that will hit the limits of the ABM treaty. And for 11 months, we have worked with the Russians to see if we could find a way that would give us the flexibility we needed to do all the testing required to develop a missile defense system. And we were unable to find a way to move forward. So under the terms of the treaty, we have notified the Russians that we would be leaving the treaty in six months' time.

This is not a crisis in our relationship with the Russians. They regret our departure. But they understand that we have been saying for a long time -- even the previous administration said in due course we would have to get out of the constraints of this treaty. And so the Russians recognize that. We don't have a crisis. And instead of an arms race breaking out, the Russians at the same time they took note of our notification said, let's work together to reduce the number of strategic offensive weapons that we both have.

So there is not going to be an arms race with the Russians and it is not going to be a crisis in our relationship. In fact, if you go back to 1972, at the time the ABM treaty that people are so in love with, some people are so in love with, was signed at the same time that the SALT I reduction agreement was signed, we had about 2,000 weapons. In the next 20 years, in the existence of the ABM treaty and SALT I, we went up to 12,000 weapons. So it didn't end the arms race; the arms race continued during the entire period of the ABM treaty which was supposed to keep this from happening. And now we are bringing those weapons back down to much, much lower levels than existed even at the time the treaty was signed. And we will continue to lower those numbers in the absence of the treaty, which will disappear in six months.

QUESTION: Criticism continues of the Bush Administration that, when it comes to the ABM treaty or it comes to the Germ Warfare conference or the Global Warming conference, that we like to go it alone, that we walk out of conferences many times and say, no, I'm sorry, we're not going to participate. And that gets the label "unilateralism." Do you think that's fair?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think it's fair. I mean, this is the same administration that saw the President go to Warsaw and make a powerful speech about the enlargement of NATO. We spend an enormous amount of our time, the President's time, my time, Secretary Rumsfeld's time dealing with our friends around the world, pulling coalitions together, working within NATO, assisting the EU in their efforts, working with our friends in Asia.

The President in the midst of this crisis went to Shanghai to participate in the APEC summit meeting. And so I think we can show a very good record of being a good multilateralist to the extent that that label has some cache these days. But where our national interests are not served by being multilateral or participating in something that we know is not in our national interests and we don't think serves the purpose that others think it serves, we have to speak out, we have to defend our interests.

And we have done that with respect to the ABM treaty, which had to be a unilateral decision; there are only two parties to it. And with respect to the Biological Warfare Convention protocol, we have said repeatedly over the last year that we had the most profound difficulties with this new protocol. And what we have done now is to work with our partners in Geneva to suspend this negotiation for a year. And I have committed to my colleagues in the conference that I will spend this next year and the United States will spend this next year trying to find a way to move forward with the Biological Warfare Convention protocol.

QUESTION: We have worked together in America's Promise, Alliance for Youth, the notion of service to our country. Tom Friedman last Sunday wrote a very interesting column and he talked about the need to now take advantage, if you will, of the atmosphere, the feelings that exist in our country post September 11th. And let me show you his column: "Ask Not What" is the headline.

It is clear there is a deep reservoir of energy out there that could be channeled to become a real force for American renewal and transformation and it's not being done. Imagine if the President announced the Manhattan project to make us energy independent in a decade on the basis of domestic oil, improved mile standards and renewable resources. Imagine if the President called on every young person to consider enlisting in some form of service, Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard, Peace Corps, Teach for America, Americorps, FBI, CIA. People would enlist in droves.

Should the President ask for more sacrifice?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the President has been doing a very effective job in talking to young people. I mean, getting youngsters of America not old enough to be in the Army, but young enough to have a quarter or a half a dollar to contribute that money, to give to the children of Afghanistan. I think he has done a great job in supporting youth serving organizations and getting people more in touch with their communities. So I think he has been a leader in this regard.

I think it is clear that we are so proud of our military that people are now stepping forward to join our military in greater numbers. They are also stepping forward to find out more about the CIA and how they could be part of this exciting organization.

So I think we have touched into the soul of America, got rid of some of the scandal attention, where we focused all summer long on various little scandals that, in retrospect, were irrelevant to what was really happening in this country. So I think the President is committed to grabbing hold of this idea, grabbing hold of this promise, and I think you will see more of that in the weeks and months ahead.

QUESTION: And also a chance to become energy independent so we don't have to worry about Saudi Arabia and Iraq and their oil?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President put out an energy plan long before September 11th. It was one of the first things this administration did. The President gave the task to the Vice President and we put out an energy plan for America, the first time one has been done in decades, and it was placed before the American people, it was placed before the American Congress.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.


10:50 a.m. EST


Interview on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release December 16, 2001


Secretary Of State Colin L. Powell On Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow

December 16, 2001 Washington, D.C.

9:03 a.m. EST

QUESTION: Now joining us to talk about America at war and the quest for peace is Secretary of State Colin Powell. Secretary Powell, we have heard reports first of al-Qaida being vanquished. To your knowledge, is that true? Is that simply a preliminary report?

SECRETARY POWELL: It seems to be the case. I can't confirm it yet. We will wait to hear from US intelligence sources and our people on the ground as to whether that is the case. I am sure there are still some remaining caves that have to be looked at and there will be some light resistance left. But for the most part, it appears that we are well on our way to success on this part of the campaign.

QUESTION: Now, you said in the past you think we are going to get bin Laden. Do you still believe that?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will get bin Laden. Whether it's today, tomorrow, a year from now, two years from now, the President has made it clear that we will not rest until he is brought to justice or justice brought to him.

The President has also made it clear from the beginning that we shouldn't just see this in the form of get him right away and that takes care of it. Our mission was to go after him, but really after al-Qaida. Al-Qaida is being destroyed in Afghanistan, now we have to destroy it wherever it exists around the world.

QUESTION: I want to get to that. But a couple more questions first about bin Laden. Do we believe he is still in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: We really don't know. There is some information that suggests he might still be there and he might have gotten across the border. We don't know. But you can be sure he is under hot pursuit.

QUESTION: The former head of the Pakistani intelligence service actually was saying the other day that he thought the bin Laden video might have been a fraud. Now, this is a man who, in the past, has been supportive of the Taliban.

Do you still worry that there are remnants of the old intelligence service in Pakistan that could be lending aid and shelter to bin Laden?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't go that far. I am sure there are elements of the intelligence service from the old days who might still have a warm spot in their heart and head for Usama bin Laden. But I know that President Musharraf doesn't and the leadership of Pakistan does not. They have been solidly aligned with us in this campaign against bin Laden. And, as Geraldo noted, they have been very forceful in reinforcing their border with their military to keep him and al-Qaida leaders from escaping into Pakistan.

QUESTION: We saw a tape the other day of bin Laden boasting about his triumphs and even predicting widespread carnage during Ramadan. It didn't happen. Do you think he's a coward?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, he's a coward. Anybody who hides behind faith to commit murder is a coward. And he goes after the innocent. He goes after those who are defenseless. And he is evil, he is a murderer, he's a coward, and now he is on the run.

QUESTION: Throughout the Arab world, there has been a lot of discussion about the bin Laden video. Do you think the video enlarged him as a figure or diminished him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think over time it diminishes him. Because anybody who watched that video, even if they might say, oh, it looks like, you know, I still think there's something to it or it might have been a fraud, when they get home late at night and they reflect on it in the days that follow, they will have to come to the conclusion that they really saw a murderer, they really saw somebody who was misusing this wonderful faith called Islam.

QUESTION: A number of people have said that they would like to see bin Laden tried before an international tribunal or even an American criminal court. Do you think either of those is an appropriate forum?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think first things first. Let's get him in custody of somebody and then we can decide how best to bring him to justice. And I think at that time, we will determine what the best forum is to put him before. But he has to be brought to justice, brought to justice in a way that the whole world can see the evidence arrayed against him and watch as the international community decides what to do with him.

QUESTION: The international community, a war tribunal?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to rule out anything or rule in anything. There are lots of ways that you can deal with a bin Laden. There have been international criminal tribunals. We have our military tribunal that the President recently created. Though I would not prejudge at this point what we might do with Mr. bin Laden if he were brought in our custody.

QUESTION: Are you disappointed that they didn't get him today?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sure. But I would have like to have seen him gotten a week ago or a month ago. The fact of the matter is we understand the nature of the battle we're in. And he is elusive. He will try to stay hidden. He will try to avoid us. But let there be no doubt in anyone's mind that the President is determined, that however long it takes, as he says to us almost every day, one day, one week, one month, two years, we will get him. Let's be patient and just not give up.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the broader battle. Al-Qaida spread over 55, 60 nations. There have been reports, for instance, the US forces are preparing to do some joint work with the Government of the Philippines, with the aid and support of that government, correct?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are working with many governments to point out to them where they could do a better job of going after al-Qaida or calling to their attention information and intelligence facts we have with respect to what's happening in their country. And we have been very pleased at the level of cooperation and response we have received from countries, now that they see what al-Qaida is all about. And that is also the case with the Philippines. We have good cooperation with the Philippines.

QUESTION: How many nations right now, like the Philippines, have vested interest in getting rid of al-Qaida on their shores, because they see it as a direct threat to their survival?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think every nation that has an al-Qaida cell should see it as a direct threat to their sovereignty, to their security and to their ability to participate in an international community that is going to move forward and leave this kind of terrorist activity behind. So it is in the interest of every single country that might be touched by al-Qaida to rip it out, get rid of it, because nothing good will come from harboring or providing a haven to al-Qaida or other terrorist organizations.

QUESTION: Do you think al-Qaida can get rooted out by any other means than simply going after them militarily, as we have done in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are many means. Sometimes it is military, sometimes it is financial. What you have to do is make it an inhospitable place for terrorists to operate, because your police are watching them and taking action against them, because your intelligence and law enforcement and financial communities are going after them. They need a warm, wet place, if I could use a biological term, a dark, warm, wet place in order to survive. And if you put the light on them and if you dry up their sources and if you make it less hospitable, then they will have to find somewhere else to go. And we want to make sure there are fewer somewhere elses for them to go over time.

QUESTION: There were a lot of predictions at the outset of this combat that the Arab street would rise up in rage.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there have been some demonstrations and there were some difficulties in the early days. But once people saw that we were, one, serious about it, two, it was not anti-Islam or anti-Arab, it was anti-terrorism, anti-murderer, and I think as more and more people learned about the nature of the crimes that Usama bin Laden committed, that rage, that potential rage was dissipated. So people now understand what we were all about and when they also see us committed to bringing in place a new government that will represent all the people of Afghanistan and providing support to that government, and making a commitment for humanitarian relief and the rebuilding of Afghanistan, people are starting to come to the realization that this was a noble cause.

QUESTION: Let me backtrack, just one more thing I want to get to with bin Laden. Let's suppose he's gotten into Pakistan. Do we have permission to go in and chase him?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Pakistan is a sovereign country, of course, and we are in constant touch with the Pakistani authorities. They have very competent troops. And I am sure that if information is passed to them about where he is, they'd go after him. The last thing they want to do is provide him with a safe haven. And if it is a situation of hot pursuit, I am sure that we have in place mechanisms where we would not have any difficulty cooperating with the Pakistanis in his apprehension.

QUESTION: Well, as a matter of fact, we have forces based there at this point?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have forces that are using facilities in Pakistan.

QUESTION: Alright now, as we think about fighting the war on terror, a lot of people think of the next step. Obviously, it is to go after al-Qaida. But al-Qaida is not the only terrorist organization on the planet, there are others. There are widespread reports that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. There is some controversy about that, though.

Do we have absolute proof that Saddam has weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no question that he is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. Based on our success at the time of the Gulf War, his conventional capability is less than half of what it used to be, and he can't project that conventional power. But he has continued to look for unconventional power.

We believe his nuclear capability has been capped, but he is still trying to regenerate it, but it's years away. Chemical weapons, there is no question that he has some remaining stock and he may be trying to generate that again. And biological weapons are the greatest concern to us, because he has always expressed an interest in that kind of weapon. And it is easier to hide that kind of capability.

That is why it's important that we continue to press with the UN inspectors getting back in on their terms to do the kind of inspection they can do for as long as it takes to see whether or not he is complying or not. Now, he won't let those inspectors back in? The sanctions remain in place, the sanctions get tighter, and at the same time the United States continues to pursue a policy that will hopefully lead to regime change at some point.

QUESTION: So you don't think he represents a clear and present danger to us right now?

SECRETARY POWELL: He is a danger to the region. I don't see his armies marching anywhere. But anybody who has demonstrated previously his willingness to use chemical weapons against his neighbors and his own people has got to be seen as a potential danger to the region.

QUESTION: It is often said that in that region of the world, the way you get respect is you be tough and you pay off on the things you say. So for the United States now to keep the respect it has earned so far in Afghanistan, we have to continue to pay off things we've talked about. We've talked a lot about Saddam Hussein. Does it have to be a goal of our policy to have, as you just said, a regime change?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a goal. It is our policy. It has been our policy for a number of years, at least three years, in a very explicit sense, and it remains our policy now. How to achieve that goal and how to pursue that policy is a matter of means. What means does one use and what will actually work? And we are constantly doing ideas, plans, concepts.

QUESTION: The Iraqi National Congress in the north, you've got Shi'a groups in the south. Could they both form the kind of allies that we have seen with the Northern Alliance and also the Eastern Alliance and Pashtun tribes in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are looking at that. It's quite a different situation. I mean, it is much, much different and I think one has to be careful before you take a cookie cutter from some other theater and apply it to another theater.

But everything you have just suggested and other ideas are constantly under review within the Administration.

QUESTION: And our allies sometimes say, well, we may not go along with you. Even if allies don't go along with us and we decide that's a proper course, we'll do it?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States will do what it believes is necessary and appropriate to defend its national security interests and the interests of its friends and allies. It is better -- I always think it is better if you can bring other people to the table, if you can have a coalition cooperating as we did in Afghanistan and as we did in the Gulf War. But the United States does not rule out acting in its own interests unilaterally where that seems to be necessary.

QUESTION: Let's move to the Middle East. Anthony Zinni has been recalled, you want to consult with him. Did Yasser Arafat break his word in terms of trying to suppress violence in the West Bank and Gaza?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have been pressing Mr. Arafat repeatedly, and I have been doing it since this Administration came into office, to get the violence down so that we can get back to a path to peace. We have given him many opportunities. The Mitchell plan, when it was announced, had a roadmap to peace discussions. George Tenet, our CIA director, went out there and created a work plan to get to the ceasefire. I went out there and tried to do the same thing.

And then last month, we gave a comprehensive statement of US policy. The President at the United Nations General Assembly recognized the need to have a vision that would lead to a Palestinian state. And he called it "Palestine." A week later, in Louisville, Kentucky, I gave a comprehensive speech that laid out what both sides had to do and the aspirations of both sides. And both sides reacted positively to that speech. They both created security committees.

We are going to work together. I sent General Zinni out as our envoy to make this happen. We started to see some progress. What happened? Hamas, a terrorist organization, started killing innocent civilians with car bombs in Jerusalem and Haifa and elsewhere. And they attacked this process, they attacked innocent Israelis. But even more fundamentally and troubling, they attacked Yasser Arafat and his authority to lead the Palestinian people toward a ceasefire and a process of peace.

Arafat has to respond to this challenge, and so far he hasn't done enough to respond to this challenge. And we have been saying to him directly, you've got to do something about this or else we're not going to go anywhere.

QUESTION: He has got a whole lot more troops than Hamas has.

SECRETARY POWELL: He has a large security force. It is an armed security force. And this morning, he will be --

QUESTION: Should he use it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. This morning, he will be making a statement on how he sees the way forward. And I hope he will give a statement that says, let's stop the Intifada, let's stop the violence, let's stop the incitement and let's find a way to get back to a path to a ceasefire so that we can get negotiations toward peace.

QUESTION: Dennis Ross, who used to be the envoy to the region, has a piece in The Washington Post today. He says the United States ought to push that along by delivering an ultimatum to Arafat, dealing with Hamas and Islamic Jihad, saying you've got to shut these down, we give you 96 hours. Is that a realistic timetable, four days?

SECRETARY POWELL: Four days? I am not going to comment on a particular timetable. We have given that message to Mr. Arafat. I have given it to him repeatedly, directly, me to him, over the last several weeks, that he is being attacked and his authority is being destroyed by Hamas and the PIJ, and he has got to respond to this and other kinds of elements within the Palestinian community that are destroying the vision of the Palestinian people to have their own state.

QUESTION: If Arafat does not respond, you have said he's relevant so far. If he doesn't, does he become irrelevant?

SECRETARY POWELL: If he doesn't, he is not leading. Just as the President said, I don't want to use the term "irrelevant" because it is not for us to decide who the leader of the Palestinian people will be. They have given to Yasser Arafat that leadership role and he is the legitimate government of the Palestinian Authority. Now, as long as he has that governmental role and as long as he is seen that way by the Palestinian people, we will have to work with him and deal with him.

QUESTION: So you have said that if he doesn't act -- you used the phrase, "he needs to act or else." Is the "or else" --

SECRETARY POWELL: The "or else" is we continue in a state of violence with both sides losing innocent civilians every single day and it leads nowhere. It does not lead to a ceasefire, it does not lead to negotiations on the basis of UN Resolutions 242 and 338 in order to find a solution so that these two peoples can live together in this land.

QUESTION: Now, there have been many cases where American officials have talked to Yasser Arafat, many occasions where he has disappointed. What is the consequence this time if there is not an end to violence and provocation from Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the consequence for him is that he will slowly lose authority within the region.

QUESTION: Well, what will we do?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not going to tell you what we are going to do before we decide what we're going to do. (Laughter.) But we will be examining all of our options of how we deal with him.

But right now, I don't want to lose hope. The Zinni mission has not failed; the parties have failed. And Zinni went to help them and they were not -- they were not ready to be helped at this point.

So I brought General Zinni back for consultations. He remains our envoy. He was always going to come back in December for consultations and for -- he can't stay there forever without coming back occasionally. And he will be ready to go back after our consultations and when circumstances suggest that there is a real reason for him to go back.

QUESTION: Final question. There has been a lot of -- well, two questions. One, Otto Reich?

SECRETARY POWELL: Otto Reich is the President's nominee to be Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemispheric Affairs, North and South America. And we stand by that nomination. The problem is we cannot get him a hearing before the committee that confirms him, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, because Senator Dodd and other members of the committee will not allow him to have a hearing. He is qualified, he knows the region, he is a strong leader and he is the President's nominee.

QUESTION: If the Senate goes into recess, would you suggest a recess appointment?

SECRETARY POWELL: This is always an option. But at the moment, we have not made a decision on that.

QUESTION: A lot of complaints about the ABM treaty. But we have pretty much wired this thing, haven't we? I mean, the Russians, they say, well, they're disappointed, it was a mistake, but they are not terribly upset. The Chinese have issued a few things.

Have we pretty much wired this so that the people that a lot of folks have said are going to be problems for us are not, in fact, going to be problems?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we took the time necessary to establish a good relationship with the Russians. President Bush and President Putin met four times in the first 11 months of this administration. I have met 16 times with my foreign minister colleague, Igor Ivanov. Mr. Rumsfeld has done the same thing. Condi has done the same thing.

So we created a relationship here and we kept telling them that we would have to do this if we couldn't find a way around the constraints of the ABM treaty, and we finally did have to do it and we notified them. But we also did it in a way that we are cutting offensive weapons at the same time. So, guess what, there's not going to be an arms race. Sorry to disappoint those who have been predicting an arms race. The Russians agreed with us last week that we are not going to have an arms race.

And the other thing that people kept saying is when you do this, it's going to fracture our relationship with the Russians and just make things terrible. Guess what? Both we and the Russians see that we have mutual interests that will keep us working closely together. As President Putin said to me last Monday in Moscow when we were discussing this, strategic cooperation with the United States is important. We will come up with a new framework agreement. We disagree with your decision on the ABM treaty. We think you're wrong, but this is one less disagreement we will have in the future, because we have put it behind us and we will continue to work together. So, no arms race and no fracture of the relationship with Russia.

China, we have consulted with them closely. President Bush talked to President Jiang Zemin. I brought in the ambassador the day before we made the announcement. I spoke to my foreign minister colleague, Mr. Tang, that evening, and they are also in disagreement over our decision. They don't think we should have done it. They think it's wrong. But I don't think we are going to see a crisis in US-Chinese relations.

QUESTION: All right, Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tony.

9:17 a.m. EST


© Scoop Media

World Headlines


Gordon Campbell: On The Hong Kong Protest Movement

The pro-democracy protests enjoy huge support among Hong Kong’s youth, partly because the democratic systems currently at risk have only a limited time span. More>>


Pacific Island Forum: Australia v Everyone Else On Climate Action

Traditionally, communiques capture the consensus reached at the meeting. In this case, the division on display between Australia and the Pacific meant the only commitment is to commission yet another report into what action needs to be taken. More>>


For NZ, It Was May 6: Earth Overshoot Day 2019 Is The Earliest Ever

Humanity is currently using nature 1.75 times faster than our planet’s ecosystems can regenerate. This is akin to using 1.75 Earths... More>>


Asylum: More Manus Refugees Fly To US But Hundreds Still In Limbo

“The US deal was never going to provide enough places for the refugees Australia has held on Manus and Nauru. There are over 1800 refugees needing resettlement,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition. More>>