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Powell Roundtable with European Journalists


Roundtable with European Journalists

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC October 28, 2002

(2:00 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry to keep you waiting. I've had phone calls.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have a deadline in mind for the negotiations in the UN?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have a specific deadline. But obviously, we have to bring this to closure in the near future. We have narrowed our differences considerably, but there still are differences. We are working hard to see if those differences can be resolved. If they can be resolved, they'll be resolved shortly, I think. It's not a matter of needing to send it out for analysis.

If those differences can be resolved, I think we can get a resolution that will enjoy broad support. If those differences cannot be resolved, then we will have difficulty. But I've been working all day long on this issue. It is narrowing, but I'm not yet ready to declare success or failure. We're hard at work. This is a very important issue. The United States, as I've said all along, wants to hear from its partners in the Security Council, believes that it would be the in the best interest of resolving this issue to have a resolution that enjoys strong support from the Council. And it would be the best possible signal to Iraq that it is time for them to cooperate.

But the resolution must be clear with respect to Iraq's violations. The resolution must be clear with respect to the tough inspection regime. I think Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei spoke to that earlier today. And it must be an inspection regime that will not give Saddam Hussein the opportunity to deceive it. I think there is a strong view throughout the Council on that point. It must be a resolution that one way or the other -- and this is where the points of disagreement are -- but one way or the other, it must lead to consequences if Iraq fails again.

And I don't think there is disagreement on that point either. The disagreement is how you determine and arrive at those consequences. It would be much better for all concerned if we could find a way that the Council is united and worked together as a council on these elements that I've just discussed. And that's what we're trying to achieve. But as the President has made clear all along, this is a problem that we cannot turn our head away from, that we believe strongly the United Nations -- us, as part of the United Nations -- should meet its obligation at this time and not let Iraq, once again, thwart the will of the international community.

And I hope we'll be able to achieve that outcome. If we are unable to achieve that outcome, as the President has said, the United States will not look away and walk away from this problem. We don't want to be in the position some time in the future of seeing Iraq in possession of these weapons and threatening the world with these weapons or even using these weapons or letting others use these weapons, and then look in the mirror and ask ourselves the question, "Why didn't we do something when we could?"

QUESTION: You said Saturday in Los Cabos that there were maybe two issues remaining. One was the characterization of future violations and the consequences. Are we still there or do you think --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, it's -- it's pretty much the -- you know, I'm a car -- I love cars. But that's where the gears -- that's where the gears still grind a little bit. So I'm working on the clutch. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: But is --

SECRETARY POWELL: Richard, explain this. (Laughter.)

Yes, that's where the gears are not quite meshed. And even when we solve these two areas, there are other issues that people will want to discuss. It's a fairly extensive resolution. But these -- the two that you just touched on, that I touched on in Los Cabos, are the key ones. And when those are resolved -- if those are resolved -- and I hope they will be -- if those are resolved, there will be other areas people will wish to discuss.

But I think the major problem will be resolved -- the major problems will be resolved. I mean, I take note of the fact that when we started out debating this, there was a lot of concern about this tough inspection regime. And everybody thought that would be the biggest problem. But we have listened to the comments from others. We have adjusted our position. Others have adjusted their position and accepted some of the ideas we have. Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei appeared before the Council today for a long period.

My best information so far is that we're pretty okay with respect to the inspection regime instructions for the new resolution.

QUESTION: On Wednesday your old friend Joschka Fischer will come, and in case war against Iraq is inevitable what do you expect which stance the German Government should take? And what -- how would you characterize German-American relations about two months after these heavy turbulences? When are we back to normal?

SECRETARY POWELL: On your second point, I would not presume to tell the German Government what its position should be. It's a democratic government, as we've learned from the latest election, and I'm sure Chancellor Schroeder can determine his position.

I will talk to my old friend -- and good friend -- Joschka Fischer in direct terms about what we think and what we believe is the right course of action, as I have in the past, and I will be as vigorous as I can be in presenting the US position. I never believe that war is inevitable. The US position is not designed to find a war. The US position is designed to solve a danger that threatens the region, the Persian Gulf region, that threatens the world, from a dictator. The US position is to try to solve this problem and not walk away from it, and to try to solve it peacefully.

If the United States was looking for a war and was not interested in any peaceful solution, the President of the United States would not have gone to the United Nations on the 12th of September and give the speech that he gave. And he would not have spent these last six weeks -- and my hair would be less gray than it is now -- if all we were looking for was an excuse for war.

The President of the United States has demonstrated repeatedly that he has strong views, he has strong principles. He is a leader who brings patience and deliberation to his decision-making process. He has done that in this instance. And so war is never inevitable. This President doesn't believe war is inevitable, and I will try to persuade Joschka of that.

With respect to US-German relations, we have been in some turbulent times in recent weeks, if I can use that expression. I said we hit a pothole the last time we talked about this. But, you know, one of my old mentors when I was a young brigadier said to me when I was mad one day, he said -- and I was upset and I was telling him how upset I was, and he did not have any particular sympathy for my being upset. He was much senior to me so he didn't have to have any such sympathy for me, but he said something I'll never forget. He said, "The best thing about being upset is you get over it."

So we have a problem and we'll get over the problem, for the simple reason that Germany and the United States are two nations that are bound together by a common purpose, by common values, by common beliefs and democracy and all the other things that have kept us together as strong partners for the last half-century. Differences will come along that will irritate the relationship from time to time, but the strength of the relationship will allow us to get over this.

When I reflect, as I will with Joschka on Wednesday, all that we have done together in the two years of this administration, the 22 months of this administration -- Afghanistan, the Bonn conference, the Loya Jirga sponsored by Germany, Germany's work now in helping train police forces of Afghanistan, Germany's dealing with its constitutional issues in order to be able to use competent German forces in places like Bosnia and Task Force Fox, all the other things that we have done with Germany together. This is the measure of the relationship and we will get through this rough patch, of this I have no doubt, and I don't think Joschka has any doubt because we're just too close to one another.

Now, if I was a mischievous person, I could take note of the fact that there seemed to be some differences within the European Union this past weekend. So friends can argue with one another and have heated arguments, but that does not mean they are not friends. It means that friends have heated arguments. Within a family there are occasionally arguments; there are occasionally disagreements. And I enjoyed -- never mind. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Sir, to continue with Iraq, the French suggested that there might be an urgent meeting of foreign ministers. Would you support that idea?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's an option. I've discussed this idea with Dominique de Villepin earlier today and with Minister Straw and Minister Ivanov and Minister Tang. But it's premature now to decide whether we should meet or not. I think we'll know better in another day or two.

QUESTION: To go to Russia, though, how close are we to the next meeting between Presidents Bush and Putin? And also --

SECRETARY POWELL: Between President Bush and Putin?

QUESTION: Yes, I understand a new meeting is discussed.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think there will be an opportunity later this fall. I don't know if anything's been announced yet.

QUESTION: And obviously we cannot skip over the recent terrorist attack on Russia. The Russians see this as a blow against international terrorism, the repeat of that terrorist bomb, and in a way, sees also this attack as the kind of real threat that the world faces. Do you share this opinion?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, it was a terrorist incident. Now, there's a lot of discussion as to how it was handled and this always happens. But let's not lose sight of the fact that these were terrorists who took innocent people who were trying to enjoy an evening out to see some entertainment, to relax in peace and in the comfort of the theater, and terrorists went in there and put the lives of whatever the number is -- 800 people -- at risk for their cause. This is terrorism.

The Russians for several days tried to negotiate, displayed patience, tried to see if there was a way forward, and within 24 hours one person had been murdered by the terrorists. Then it was clear that others were being murdered by the terrorists, and the Russian leadership felt obliged to act, and they acted. We regret deeply the loss of life of innocent people, and we offer our condolences to the families of those whose lives were lost. We hope for the speedy recovery of those who are in hospitals.

I don't have any information with respect to the nature of the operation or the means and methods that were used. The Russian leadership was dealing with a very difficult problem and at the time the decisions were made, the Russian leadership had no reason to believe that they were not acting to save the lives of 800 people or however many number were in the theater. And people were being killed, and people's lives were being threatened with explosive charges at the time the Russian leadership made its decision.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can we go back to Iraq for a second? You said that the United States is not looking for an excuse for war. But as you well know, the principal concern, particularly from countries such as France, is about language that appears to authorize the use of force or would be seen as a trigger for force.

Are you so opposed to a second resolution? What are your reasons for opposing a second resolution, and are you so opposed that you're prepared to walk away from what's obviously been intensive debate over the last six weeks?

SECRETARY POWELL: We felt strongly that the violation of UN Security Council resolutions was flagrant, obvious and unquestionable. Nobody disagrees with that. We also believe that if you sent the inspectors back in, the only way Iraq was going to cooperate is if they knew consequences would follow. We believed it was the strongest possible signal to Iraq to include a statement of those consequences in one resolution, and that's why we put "all necessary means" in our first resolution proposal when we started discussing this.

A number of our friends said that is a little too far for us, we believe, and we believe strongly, that there ought to be a break in there where the Council can consider whether or not "all necessary means" or whatever the Council decides to do should be put into another resolution. So then you had the two-resolution debate. We listened carefully. We saw that it would be useful to find a way to bridge that difference, and we did. And we moved away from "all necessary means," and we moved to another formulation that had Dr. Blix or Dr. El Baradei reporting to the Council if they couldn't do their job, a new violation, a new breach. Then the Council could consider this situation and the need for full implementation.

So that gives all of those who wanted the opportunity to debate this before the Council took action, that opportunity. Now, some people say that gives you a second resolution; it might just give you a second debate; it might give you a second, third and fourth resolution. By our willingness to show flexibility on that point, we essentially believe we have accommodated those who wanted an opportunity to decide this. They have now the opportunity to decide or not to decide it, to pass a second resolution or offer a second resolution or not, and we will be part of that debate. We're part of that Security Council.

We had to make sure that we did not do it in such a way that a set of handcuffs were being put upon the United States and other nations who, in the absence of the Security Council's second resolution if one were to come about, but in the presence of continued Iraqi violation, could not at some point in the future act.

I think the circle gets squared because when Dr. Blix or Dr. El Baradei report to the Council that Iraq is not complying, and there are some people who suggest this is what Iraq will do, most of -- I think everybody's hoping Iraq will stop this nonsense and cooperate fully. But if they don't cooperate and Dr. Blix or El Baradei report these failures, this new violation, this new breach, this new problem, then we don't want to find ourselves handcuffed so that nothing can happen.

It's also clear that it will take some time for people to make a judgment, not only the Security Council under the terms of the resolution we proposed, but also the United States Government and our allies who might be willing to do, you know, like-minded nations like Kosovo, deciding to act in the absence of a new resolution.

There will be time for this to be considered, both courses of action, and we would certainly prefer to see the UN act in a multilateral way. That would be a preferred course of action.

I think the circle is squared by the simple fact that there will be time. The situation is not going to be so spring-loaded that from a violation reported by Dr. Blix or El Baradei that something happens the next morning. The language that we proposed is that the Council will immediately convene to consider what the two doctors or one of the two doctors have reported.

QUESTION: But why did you actually not take the French proposition? Because it would enhance the international support dramatically.

SECRETARY POWELL: Because we didn't think the French -- well, let me answer it this way. There were some French ideas and American ideas and there are Russian ideas and Chinese ideas, and we are working hard now to see if we can blend them into a proposal that all sides will find useful and that will no longer be the French or the American proposal. The French had difficulties with our proposal. They thought it was a little too far down the road of action. And we had trouble with the French original French proposal when they were shopping last week because we felt it wasn't strong enough with respect to the indictment and what happens, what the serious consequences could be.

So what we're trying to do is to find a blend that will satisfy as many members of the Council as possible. And it's not clear what the vote would be on either version today.

QUESTION: But you'd still be leaving the definition of what the serious consequences would be to a later resolution would be insufficient or too weak to get Iraq to comply?

SECRETARY POWELL: But that's where we -- that's the position we have now. So obviously, we don't think it's too weak because Iraq knows that if they violate the will of the Council this time and do not comply, do not cooperate, frustrate the work of the inspectors, there are consequences ahead, either multilaterally under a UN authority, the UN authority, or, as the President has said, the Kosovo model of like-minded nations coming together might be the way to crack the problem.

QUESTION: You said on Saturday that if an agreement was not possible, if an agreement was not possible, the Security Council should come to realize that it was not possible.

SECRETARY POWELL: I mean, if we --

QUESTION: So how do you do it? Is it through a vote?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that --

QUESTION: And second, is the vote is the same if there is no majority for your resolution or if one of the Permanent Members uses its veto power?

SECRETARY POWELL: Say the first part of your question?

QUESTION: Do you go to a vote to realize, as you said, that there's no agreement? And second, is the vote the same for the US whether there is a majority against the US-UK proposal or one of the Permanent 5 uses its veto power?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't want to hypothesize on what we might or might not do or what we might or might not vote for or against in the absence of something specific. But the way you ultimately have to resolve this is, I am sure that somebody sooner or later will say, okay, look, we think this is as far as we can go with our position and therefore we present it to the Council for a vote. Then the Council will vote, and it either will succeed or it will fail. You can follow the logic trail from that as easily as I can. If it succeeds, fine. If it fails, then there is an option for an other resolution which might succeed or fail.

It is possible that you could end up at the end of this -- and I'm just mathematically taking you down the road -- you could end up with no resolution that could gain the support of the Council. But I don't -- you know, I'm not predicting that. I'm just mathematically telling you what the procedure is.

I think that it's possible still to blend these positions into a resolution that will enjoy strong support and it will be a strong resolution that will meet the tests that I think all of the international community agree upon, even though the methodology we don't agree upon: a clear statement that they have been in violation of these resolutions, a tough inspection regime, and a clear statement that there have to be consequences for continued violations. I know of no member of the Council -- I can maybe think of one, but I can for the most part think of no member of the Council -- most members of the Council, almost all the members of the Council would agree with this.

When I speak to my colleagues -- and pick any one you want -- they don't disagree with this. There have to be consequences. And, you know, those who say, well, look at all Iraq is doing now. Oh, my, they're inviting inspectors in and they want you and they're mad that they didn't show up in the 19th last week like they were supposed to. Why are they doing this? Because of the goodness of their heart? Oh, why didn't you tell us we were in violation before? I must tell you, the letter must have been lost in the mail. You know, nonsense. It's because there's pressure being put on them. Pressure that says there will be consequences; you are not going to be allowed to get away with this again. No, cooperate.

And that's why they're doing all this. That's why they threw the first, you know, ball in the game on the day -- the Monday after the Thursday, 12 September. On Monday they suddenly say they're letting everybody in. And then Thursday they were starting to change their mind and then the next Monday they had another proposal. And then presidential sites -- sure, you can look at them -- oh, no, we didn't mean it. Dr. Blix sent them a letter, which they haven't really answered yet.

It's a game we have seen for years and there have to be consequences for a nation that will play this kind of unilateral game against the whole international community. One nation against 190. And it's a game that has to come to an end. And nobody disagrees with this. Nobody disagrees with this. What we're having our debate about is different points of view of how best to achieve the same thing.

QUESTION: So what's the roadmap on Korea? (Inaudible.)

SECRETARY POWELL: Korea? I won't belabor -- you've read what I've said and the President has said. We're pleased that we came out of the APEC meeting over the weekend with a strong trilateral statement from South Korea, the United States and Japan, and also a statement out of APEC, a short statement saying that North Korea has to give up these weapons. Two nice, direct words, one four letters long, one two. "Give up."

They have violated their agreements under the Agreed Framework, NPT, and even most recently the Pyongyang statement or declaration entered into by Prime Minister Koizumi and President Kim Jong-il just a few weeks ago. And the Japanese Government has made it clear that this matter must be dealt with before anybody can consider normalization or certainly any financial support.

And so the North Korean regime has put out another statement this past Friday which demands a treaty of some kind with the United States before they will do anything about this. Well, that's unacceptable. They are the ones who have violated previous agreements, and they have to deal with that violation before they can expect anyone to enter into new agreements, or to give them any kind of additional support besides the basic humanitarian support that they have been provided.

I hope you will all note, all of you will note particularly, that the question of whether there is evidence or not and was Mr. Kelly actually reporting accurately, but take a note -- take a close look at the Korean statement. It never denies it. It never says we don't have it. Now, I don't know what more evidence one needs. Mr. Kelly has worked on and off for me for 15 years. He worked for me when I was National Security Advisor. He's a naval officer. He is a man of incredible ability and the highest competence and with the strongest possible reputation. He had three interpreters with him. He made sure that he was well covered with interpreters. There were other Americans in the room, from the Defense Department and from other parts of our government. They all sat there. The gentleman came in that next afternoon. He was not in an emotional state. He read his statement. He read it. Mr. Kelly didn't have anything to say except listen. This is after he had presented --

QUESTION: He was bluffing?

SECRETARY POWELL: Should I bet on it? Would you? No, they're not bluffing. We know what they're doing. We told them we knew what they were doing. I mean, what started it is -- we didn't -- we found this information. We discovered over the summer through a variety of means that they were procuring the technology to create a uranium enrichment centrifuge capability.

And then when we found this, and we started to go backwards in time and connect the dots, we could see it. And it didn't happen after the "axis of evil" speech; it was happening in the previous administration. And we immediately called the previous administration and said, look, we've got to tell you, you know, what happened.

And so we found it, and I can assure you that it is no mistake. When we first heard it, when I was briefed on it by my staff in early July, I said, "You're kidding. They're putting all of at risk -- you know, the opening to Japan, the trains going through the DMZ, the soccer games in the South? They're putting all this at risk for another nuclear weapons program, after we bottled up the first one with the Agreed Framework? No, go check some more." And we spent weeks looking at this.

And then when it became clear that this was incontrovertible, we started discussing it with our allies. My friend Igor and I, by the end of July, were talking about it. And we shared with our allies. We were patient. We didn't take any precipitous action. You'll recall that I met with the Korean Foreign Minister in Brunei -- the first meeting between senior US and DPRK officials -- and I told him we really want to help you with your problems, but here are the things we have to deal with. And I alluded to it at that point. I said we're concerned about some of the things that are going on. No mistaking of it.

And then he said as soon as Mr. Kelly is ready to come in, we will let him in right away. We then had the ship problem, the sinking of the ship that delayed things. Then we contacted them and said Mr. Kelly is ready to come in. They came back the next day and said right away, send him in -- 24-hour turnaround from the time we asked till the time they said yes, less than 24 hours, which is very unusual in their system.

Mr. Kelly went in with instructions and told them what we had in mind, told them our concerns, then gave this information. And by then, there was no doubt about the information. And the next day they came back in and they read their points and said yes. And not only did they say yes, they said, "And we have other things." We don't quite know what that meant. I don't know whether that's a bluff or not. But you don't look at this regime that has 60 tons of plutonium sitting around that they reprocessed, and they have produced a couple of bombs from that plutonium. We can't see the bombs but it's likely, possible. You can't assume they're bluffing. And we know they're not bluffing because we've seen what they're doing. We know what they're doing.

And so -- excuse me, I got off your question. And so we've talked to our allies, got good statements out of the weekend. We're going to go at this very deliberately, and we are going to walk in concert with our allies on this one. The Japanese are meeting with them this week. The Korean election is coming up. And as we make decisions about this, we will consult with our friends to make joint decisions, and then we'll move forward in a very deliberate way.

QUESTION: Can I just ask on the fuel oil shipments, how can you go ahead with the '94 agreements, the stipulations about fuel oil, after you know and all the allies are agreed that they are in violation of that agreement?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are lots of pieces to the Agreed Framework and other understandings that we have with the North Koreans, and we will review all of those and make a judgment as to what we should do and what serves our interest.

They have said they nullified the '94 agreement, so we consider it nullified. What we actually do with the elements of the '94 agreement and how we play them or not play them is something we will make judgments about because there are some things that serve our interest.

QUESTION: In case there's no resolution, no agreement, would that make war unavoidable?

MR. BOUCHER: You're back on Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: We're back on Iraq? (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: You're sure there's not some other places you'd like to go to war? (Laughter.)

I just want to stick with the fact that I'm hopeful that we can get a resolution, and I just don't want to speculate (inaudible). The one thing that I will say, because it's US policy and the President has been very clear on this, is that he believes strongly, we all believe strongly, that Iraq must be disarmed for the good of the world, for the good of the UN, and for the good of the people in the region and the good of the people of Iraq. They can look toward a better life that is in a world that is not dominated by this problem of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

The President has not stepped one inch back from that objective and he has said that if no one else will do it, if the UN won't do it, then he will see if there are like-minded nations who feel as strongly as he that they have to be disarmed. And there are nations who have made it clear that they would participate if it came to that, but the President is hopeful that the UN will live up to its responsibilities and to act on those responsibilities.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Once again, my condolences to all the Russian families who have lost loved one.

QUESTION: Thank you.

[End]


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