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Interview With Journalists from New UNSC Nations

Interview With Journalists from New Security Council Member Nations

Secretary Colin L. Powell Released by the Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC January 16, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning and welcome. It's a great pleasure to welcome you as representing the new elected members of the Security Council countries. And, as you know, the United States works very closely with the Security Council and I think that was evidenced in the work we did to produce Resolution 1441 and other work that we do.

Very often you hear about the permanent five members of the Security Council, but I always remember that there are 15, and the ten elected members are just as important. Even though they don't have veto rights, they bring the hopes and aspirations of the people of their country and they are sovereign nations who have to be dealt with as sovereign nations with their own points of view, their own principles to uphold and their own public positions.

And it is for that reason that I welcome this opportunity to speak to those publics through you and I look forward to working with the new members in the months ahead.

With that, I will turn it over to your questions.

QUESTION: If I can key off, sir, do you regret now having gone to the United Nations? Was it a mistake? And I think in the context of the insistence from, at the moment, all of your allies that there needs to be a second resolution and the resistance at this moment to giving you authorization to go off to Iraq. If you hadn't gone to the UN, you could go ahead and do it, maybe you would already have done it by now.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have absolutely no regrets. The problem that was before the international community was one that had to be dealt with by the international community. And that's why the President felt it was important for him to go before the United Nations on the 11th (sic) of September and remind the United Nations of its responsibilities to enforce its resolutions -- many resolutions over a period of a dozen years that Iraq had systemically ignored, Iraq had thrown out or caused to be thrown out or made it impossible for the UNSCOM inspectors to remain in Iraq in 1998, and nobody knew what Iraq had been doing since 1998, but certainly there was no question that they were working on weapons of mass destruction but there were no inspectors in there to see what was going on.

So it was a United Nations problem and this President, anxious to work with the international community, took it to the United Nations. But we have no regrets. When you are dealing with a international body like that, different countries have different opinions, and Resolution 1441 is still playing out. On the 27th of January, the chief inspectors, Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei, will report to the Security Council and each of the 15 members of the Security Council will be there to receive that report and make a judgment about that report. The United States has not asked for a resolution, a second resolution. It has not done anything right now but say that it waits for Dr. Blix's report.

We believe, however, that based on what we have seen so far, Iraq is failing to meet the mandate of 1441. Iraq has failed to cooperate. It has failed to put forward a believable declaration, as required. It is not making people available. It is not making documents available. It is deceiving the inspectors. It is trying to make it harder for the inspectors to do their work.

What the United States will be looking for on the 27th of January and what every member of the Security Council should be looking for on the 27th of January is a simple -- is a simple proposition: Is Iraq cooperating, as was intended under 1441? And is it cooperating in a way that would satisfy the demands of the international community for Iraq to disarm? And that's a judgment that the Council will have to make.

We cannot get ourselves into a situation where the Council just, in the presence of this kind of non-cooperation, just wants to not do anything and let it continue forever.

QUESTION: What's the level of proof for a judgment?

SECRETARY POWELL: The level of proof is what will persuade the Council whether or not Iraq is or is not disarmed or being disarmed. So it is not a legal level of proof before a court of law. It's a judgment that will have to be made by the 15 members of the Council. Is Iraq cooperating in a way that will allow the inspectors to get to the truth? So far, we do not believe Iraq is. If Iraq wanted to get to the truth and wanted to satisfy the mandate, they would be not waiting to have information pulled out of them, pried out of them, dug out of holes. They'd be putting it all forward. Here's what we did. Here are all the people who used to participate in the programs that we no longer have. That's what we are looking for.

And if that is not the spirit of cooperation, I think, that is present, then I think the Security Council has to take a hard look at it. There's a lot of debate of whether it's 1441 or 1284. That is really -- there are two resolutions, but that isn't the major question before us. The major question before us is how to get implementation under 1441 and the Council will receive this report on the 27th of January and the Council will, in due course, sometime after that, make its judgment as to what the inspectors should do. Dr. Blix said today, I think, or yesterday, that he will await the instructions of the Security Council, which is quite correct. That's what he should --

QUESTION: But, Mr. Secretary, it looks like this administration is rushing for a war that they don't want to give the inspectors more time. As Mr. Blix said, they could do a better job if they had all been presented a report on March the 27th. And so far, outside Washington all the capitals of the world are waiting for the proof that the Iraqi regime has weapons of mass destruction and so far we haven't seen anything, just your word and the word of the President of the United States.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have presented information to members of the Council over time. If you want proof that Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and has used them in the past, I can show you pictures of them using them in the past. We know they have used them in the past against their own people, against others. And there is no doubt that they were developing nuclear weapons before the Gulf War, and the IAEA did a good job of bringing that to a halt. But we are not yet satisfied that we know what they have been doing since the IAEA was asked to leave the country some four years or so ago.

And so it seems to me that a regime that has the intent to develop weapons of mass destruction, the capacity to do so, and we believe has been doing so, the burden is on them to prove that they do not have weapons of mass destruction. That's the problem. It is not -- you know, we believe and we believe that we will be presenting information in the days ahead, more than we have in the past, that will give you our impression and our evidence, and we are waiting to see what the inspectors turn up. That's why we're waiting for the first official report from Dr. Blix on the 27th of January.

There are also many people who don't want to see the evidence. They don't want to know anything about it. We just don't want to have to deal with this problem. The reason the inspectors are back in Iraq now is because the President of the United States and other nations made it clear that Iraq was going to be disarmed one way or the other.

And so the American buildup that you're seeing and other buildup -- buildups by other nations that you see taking place, is part of supporting the diplomatic pressure to make Iraq perform, to make Iraq comply with the resolution. The President has not made a decision for war. The President has said he would like to see this resolved peaceably. But if it isn't resolved peacefully -- peacefully -- then, he believes the international community has an obligation to disarm Iraq forcefully. And he believes if the international community isn't willing to do it, then the United States, with likeminded nations, may have that obligation so that the world does not face an Iraq with weapons of mass destruction.

And so the 27th of January is an important date. We will get this report from Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei and then we can make collective, as well as individual, judgments. Each country can make its judgment.

QUESTION: Can we just get back on the issue of the second resolution? Will you seek a second resolution? Do you need a second resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: If we want the entire Security Council to act as a body, the international community, the UN, to act as a body, then that would suggest a second resolution. But we have always made it clear that even in the absence of a second resolution, if the United States feels strongly that Iraq still has weapons of mass destruction and trying to develop new ones, the United States reserves the right and believes there is sufficient authority within international law, based on many acts of noncompliance, many material breaches in the past and continuing material breaches into the present, that would give us a basis for undertaking whatever might be required to disarm Iraq.

But the question of whether or not there is going to be a second resolution and who'll introduce it and what might it look like and what will the vote be for it, it's premature for me to speculate on this.

QUESTION: Sir, if I may --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm well aware that many nations around the world would like to see a second resolution as the legal basis for action and we are taking their concerns very much to mind and to heart. We have been patient. We have not rushed to judgment, but at the same time, you can't keep judgment from occurring just because you're afraid that the judgment might lead to actions that you would just as soon not support or not see undertaken.

The thing that is absolutely clear, that the President has spoken to it, Prime Minister Blair has spoken to it, many nations have spoken to it, even those nations who are anxious to see a second resolution, and that is that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed. And so far, he was given a last final chance under 1441 and the evidence so far is that he has failed to take the opportunity that's been presented to him.

QUESTION: Sir, may I say that all along the atmosphere, the attitude of the US administration has been very hostile, very belligerent and very strong, and denunciatory language has been used, and there is a feeling that all over the world that the United States has made up its mind in any case to invade Iraq and also, the US has failed to establish to the satisfaction of the world that Iraq poses a clear and present physical threat to the United States.

Also, the dichotomy between the way the US is dealing with the situation in North Korea and the way it is dealing with Iraq. There is a dichotomy and people see the contradiction. On the one hand, the North Koreans say that they have a program, every day they issue a new threat and the US wants to engage them. On the other hand, in the case of Iraq, the onus is on Iraq and the process normally, the universal principle of law is that the prosecutor -- the onus to prove an offense is on the prosecutor, not on the accused. But here, the prosecutor places the onus on the accused. Iraq says they have no weapons of mass destruction. The inspectors haven't found anything so far. No smoking gun, as Dr. Blix says.

QUESTION: Can we give the Secretary a chance to --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm waiting for him to ask me a question.

QUESTION: What I'm saying -- yes, what I'm saying, I'm just expressing to you something that has been in many countries of the world.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I do understand their position and let me talk to it this way.


SECRETARY POWELL: The international community has engaged in diplomacy with Iraq for the last dozen years. That's what all those many UN resolutions were all about. This is not a court proceedings. This is a reluctant witness and a reluctant provider of evidence that has taken every effort to hide what it is doing and to distract the inspectors from their work and to deceive the inspectors and to keep the information hidden in a very large country, and at the same time saying they have no weapons of mass destruction. If they have no weapons of mass destruction, and we believe that evidence has been provided over the years that they do have weapons of mass destruction, then I certainly believe the obligation is on them to say, "Okay, here is why we make the claim that we have no weapons of mass destruction."

We're not dealing with a misdemeanor. We're dealing with a felonious state that has used these weapons of mass destruction and has done everything to hide them for the last 15 years. If you look at what the inspectors were doing in the early '90s after the Gulf War and Iraq was saying, "We don't have anything, we don't have anything," and then suddenly a defector gets out and says, "Well, let me tell you what they have." And suddenly we have this piece of information and we go back and say, "You do you have biological weapons," and they say, "Oh, yeah, well, we forgot to tell you about that." This is not the kind of assurance you should take from this kind of a regime.

And I'm saying to you right now that if they do have biological weapons, as they finally had to admit, that is a threat not only to the nations immediately around Iraq, that is a threat to the world. And anybody who would be complacent and say you Americans are picking on this terrible regime, which is developing biological weapons that are no threat to anybody, I think that is a wrong way to look at it.

Now, the dichotomy with North Korea. We have been engaged in diplomacy over this issue with Iraq for 12 years and Iraq has learned how to use that diplomacy by just saying no, we're not going to cooperate and we're going to deceive you. With respect to North Korea, diplomacy was used eight years ago in 1993 and 1994 to come up with an Agreed Framework in a situation not terribly different from the situation today, where people are worried about what North Korea might be doing. And it is reported that the administration at that time was ready to use military force, or at least they were taking military steps to protect South Korea and our interests and to be ready for anything that might come.

A political diplomatic solution was found at that time and we had the Agreed Framework that froze the activities at Yongbyon and Taechon and other facilities associated with this. And for eight years, the United States and the international community believed that, good, we have gotten the genie back in the bottle in North Korea. We had no idea that there was another bottle and another genie and the cork was out until earlier this year, about the time we were ready to say to North Korea, let's move forward, let's deal with the proliferation concerns. Yes, the President has reservations about your regime, yes we have called you a member of the "axis of evil." But you have demonstrated in the past through your activities that that is not an unfair description. So we are willing to move forward if you can satisfy us with respect to the concerns that we and the international community have.

And then at the same time we were engaging Korea, just about that same time in early or mid-summer, we found intelligence information that we were able then to go backward in time and we could discover, without any question about it, that not only was there another bottle cap off, genie out, while we're watching this one. So they were enriching uranium while the plutonium facility was under control.

We presented this information to them. We say we know about this. Can you give us any explanation whatsoever? And the answer was, "Well, yeah. We do. We have it." And people say, "Well, they didn't really say that." We had three of the finest Hangul language interpreters in the room, as we've talked to them before, and it's a very complex language. And so we had our best there and there's no question what they said to us. Yes, we do have this other capability.

Now, that was in early October. That was three months ago. We are not looking for a crisis. We are not looking for a war. We have no hostile intent toward North Korea, and we've said that. But at the same time, we are concerned that they have violated their obligations under the Agreed Framework and to the international community. The IAEA has said so. IAEA passed a strong resolution, 35 nations, some represented here, and part of the Board of Governors. And so we are trying to solve this one diplomatically.

But, you know, a president -- any political leader, any president or prime minister has a full range of options available to him or to her: political, diplomatic, economic, law enforcement, intelligence and military. And you can act with a regional grouping of countries, you can act with international organizations, or you can act unilaterally. And in this instance with North Korea, three months into this problem, we still believe that diplomacy should be given the opportunity to work, and we're hard at work with diplomacy.

I see no dichotomy, even though people are anxious to say, well, you said, you know, everybody in the "axis of evil" is going to get it. We didn't say that. We said that these countries are doing things that we think are not in the best interests of their people or the world, and we've called it clearly out. We've called them clearly out. But we will use a full range of options available to us to deal with each of these situations, and because we deal with it one place in a certain way doesn't mean that the same certain way has to be used in another place.

QUESTION: Let me get back to the question of proof. Iraq has -- if Iraq behaves as we know it used to behave and would not disclose, then the world still expects some kind of proof or some better feeling of the kind of threat you now perceive to share that intensity to confront that threat. And you always mention these kinds of proofs you want to disclose within the next days. We haven't seen anything yet. More things are coming. Where is it? It's like sort of the secret weapon, you know, from history. Surely you'll be able to elaborate on that.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, there is -- you know, there will not be a -- I don't know of a secret weapon that we're suddenly pulling out of a vault or out of an office somewhere. But we believe that as this debate unfolds, beginning on the 27th, the information that we have available to us and we'll be providing to the world, and what the inspectors say with respect to lack of cooperation, and what the inspectors might have been able to find that would satisfy somebody as concrete evidence, they may or may not between now and the 27th. We believe a persuasive case will be there at the end of the month that Iraq is not cooperating.

Now, we will have to look at that case at the time and then the Council will have to make a judgment as to what the Council should do at that time. And the United States separately, and each nation separately, will have to make its own judgment as to what it should or should not do.

QUESTION: So why the rush? I work -- my office is at the United Nations. I can tell you a lot of diplomats there ask me that question all the time. Why the rush? Why can't we have another year? Why not give us the time to find the evidence? Kofi Annan himself had a press conference the day before yesterday, and in answer to a question of mine said, "I see no evidence that we're there yet in terms of the war. Give the process time." Blix has been talking about using 1284 which spells out the processes of a year. But is it purely being the domestic American political calendar that requires it to happen --

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not -- what part of our domestic political calendar do you have in mind? The election is over and there's not another one coming for --

QUESTION: Well, I guess the idea is that people have to start pitting the hustlings in New Hampshire in the year's time.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, that has got nothing to do with American domestic politics. It has to do with the threat that has been left un-dealt-with for all these many, many months, and these many, many years for that matter.

And what we don't want to see happen is for the Iraqis to suddenly play this game on us again where the world says, "Oh, gee. Let's just leave them alone. They're not bothering anybody. And let's not put any military forces into play. Let's not show them any forceful determination on the part of the international community, and all will be well again."

And we'll be right back here, and if a year or two years from now we were to follow such a course of action and suddenly one day Saddam Hussein pops up and said, Surprise, you didn't get it. But here it is." Then we'll all be staring at each other wondering why we didn't do something.

So it is not that we are in a rush to judgment. We think that it has been a rather slow movement to justice over the last -- or judgment, over the last 12 years. And now that we have started it with 1441, it is time to move rapidly to get to the bottom of the case with this regime.

1284 was done in 1999 for another time and another place, and it essentially talks about coming up with a list of uncompleted tasks, I think, or something like that is the term of (inaudible). Well, how do you make a solid determination of what uncompleted tasks are if you're not getting the kind of cooperation you need to determine what the full set of tasks are in the beginning, to begin with?

And so I think there will be a debate, a discussion that we'll have to enter into, as to how Blix and El Baradei should move forward after they have reported on the 27th of January. As you well know, that's the only report called for under 1441. But that is not to say that the Council might not instruct both of them, "Come back in two weeks and give us a report." And that's a debate that will have to take place within the Council.

MR. BOUCHER: We've got about five more minutes.


QUESTION: Do you think it's --

SECRETARY POWELL: You took all the time. It's your fault. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: I'm sorry. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Can we get it back? (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Do you think it's fair, that perception of you as the loyal opposition inside the White House? I suppose that every time you are -- if you are risking five dollars for every time you are portrayed as the dissident in residence of this administration, you will be as rich as Bill Gates.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think so. We have strong members of this administration in the national security part of the administration, and we present our views to the President. We are blessed to have a strong President who can hear these views and make a decision.

But the policy of this government is not set by the Secretary of State or the Secretary of Defense or anyone but the President. And when you say I am a dissident, I feel like I should go, you know, find asylum somewhere. (Laughter.) Would any of you be -- (laughter).

QUESTION: We're thoroughly at a loss. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: But I certainly don't feel that way. I feel that the President values the advice he receives from all of his national security associates and all of us feel absolutely free to argue with each other, debate with each other and provide our best advice to the President.

And, you know, the President is the one who decided that he should take this to the international community, to the United Nations. The President is the one who decided rather than look for another crisis in Northeast Asia -- rather than find a -- create a crisis atmosphere in South -- in Northeast Asia, we should try to find a diplomatic solution.

These are, I think, multilateral approaches of the kind that we are constantly asked to pursue. And multilateralism doesn't mean, however, getting so wrapped up in the process that nothing comes out the other end.

The UN has been given a challenge by Iraq. For 12 years, Iraq said to the most important international organization on earth, one that was created to deal with problems like this, "We don't care what you think or what resolutions you pass. We don't care and we no longer want the inspectors here. We're going to make it impossible for them to act and we're going to try to hide things." Anybody who thinks they're not hiding things is not looking at reality.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --

QUESTION: -- the anti-Americanism around the world --

MR. BOUCHER: Let's go over to --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think he's had a chance yet.

QUESTION: You're talking to the new members of the Security Council and there are a lot in there which have doubts following you in this, especially Germany which might have the Security Council at that point. Governments might break apart during the course of that political action. Would you do it alone, pay that price, risking international solidarity or risking sort of alliances in the course of action against Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are not out to cause fissures within governments. We are out to do one thing, and that is to disarm Iraq. And the 15 members of the Security Council who met on the morning of the 7th of November --

MR. BOUCHER: Yes, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Or whatever day it was, that Friday -- get your calendar. I think it was the 7th of November. Fifteen of them said, "Here is a tough resolution that we all have agreed to unanimously that calls for Iraq to cooperate in getting to the truth and to let the inspectors back in." If the Council had not spoken that clearly at that time, not a single inspector would be there today. There would be nothing going on but more Iraqi intransigence. It is pressure, not a willingness to cooperate, that has brought us to this point. That pressure has to be maintained.

I hope that as we go into these discussions my colleagues in the Security Council and the capitals represented by the Security Council and the nations represented by the Security Council will meet their responsibilities with respect to the disarmament of Iraq and I hope that they will be able to convey to their people why this is important. It's important for not just the safety and security of the United States.

The United States is not just off looking for a war to get into. It is important that regimes like this do not have these kinds of weapons of mass destruction and this is a regime that has been working on it for more than 12 years, 15 years, since before the Gulf War, long before, wasted its people's treasure, and that the United Nations has to remain a relevant body. And if you're passing all these resolutions over the years, and then passing unanimously 1441 by a 15-0 vote, you then walk away from 1441 without what you were seeking. That would be a terrible blow to the United Nations.

But I do recognize -- I'm not unmindful of the positions of the individual governments you represent here today and the fact that there are countries where the public opinion is very definitely against any military action to compel Iraqi compliance. Everybody has hope that Iraq will comply peacefully. Well, everybody then should be putting pressure on Iraq.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --

SECRETARY POWELL: All of your nations should be in touch with the Iraqi Government.

QUESTION: Are you disturbed by the level of anti-Americanism? And linked to that, the word -- the "I" word is making its appearance increasingly frequently -- imperialism. We saw it in The New York Times Magazine the other day, U.S. News and World Report. Al Gore himself used it the other day. Does the anti-Americanism worry you?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is a degree of anti-Americanism out there. It comes in waves and then it goes. I think that we can persuade the international community that what we are doing is not some form of American imperialism. America has not been an imperialistic nation. We have had possessions over the years and what we've done with most of them is get rid of them. Those are the ones that wanted to be free and independent. We are not the ones who colonized or imposed imperialistic regimes on the world. Quite the contrary --

QUESTION: The Philippines, Cuba.


QUESTION: I said the Philippines, Cuba.

SECRETARY POWELL: The Philippines are free. I don't see any American flags in Cuba. Puerto Rico is a unique situation and wishes to remain in its current status. And we have some other minor possessions who are very happy with the relationship we have with them. But there's no territory out there that wants to change its status.

QUESTION: But there are different types of imperialism.

SECRETARY POWELL: But you know, there are different types of imperialism, but you know, let me tell you something. We could have been imperialistic after World War I and World War II. The only thing we asked for was the opportunity to help nations grow into democracy and freedom. And the only land we ever claimed was where we put our dead Americans. So I will not sit and say, "Well, this is American imperialism." It's not part of our national history and traditions, certainly not for the last 100 years. If you come out of the Spanish-American War, we might have a debate about it in 1898, but for the last 104 years, I will give you quite a different characterization.

And when you look at where American troops have gone over the last 10 or 12 years, we freed Kuwait from Iraqi invasion, this gentle country that we should sort of ignore and not worry about their weapons of mass destruction. We freed Kuwait from their invasion. We freed Kosovo, another Muslim country. And we freed Afghanistan from its totalitarian regime and the terrorist organization that had captured that country.

And we don't want to stay in any of these countries. We want to put them back into the hands of their people, and our record on this has been pretty straightforward and clear.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --


QUESTION: A quick one, a quick one. There is another crisis, very important, in Latin America. It's Venezuela. Now the Group of Friends is already formed. There is a timeframe that the United States and Brazil are looking for diplomacy to resolve the crisis? And do you see any difference in the new area of foreign relations being the presence of Mexico with Luis Ernesto Derbez replacing Jorge Castaneda?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to your last question, I talked to Jorge as he was leaving office and I also talked to Luis as he's coming in, and I don't expect any significant changes in Mexican foreign policy. I know the new Foreign Secretary quite well and I look forward to working with him and I'll probably be seeing him Monday in New York.

With respect to the Group of Friends, we don't have a specific time limit or suspense, if I can put it that way, or deadline. The Group has just now been formed. It has been formed in a way to support the efforts of the OAS Secretary General, Mr. Gaviria. And I look forward to an early meeting with Mr. Gaviria to see how we can support his efforts and put energy behind his efforts to find a constitutionally sound solution to the problem in Venezuela.

QUESTION: Okay, thank you.


QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: There's a story that the last day of the Reagan Administration you said, "Mr. President, today the world is quiet."

SECRETARY POWELL: It was. That day. True, true.

He asked me what's going on, and I said, "Mr. President, the world is quiet today." It was the morning of the 20th of January, 1989, I guess.

QUESTION: You expect to be able to say the same thing at the end of this administration?


QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We spend all of our time talking about the problems of the world. There are many good things going on.

QUESTION: It's hard to see them, though.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I see them every day. I see the United States in a much more solid relationship with China, with Russia. I see Europe expanding, NATO and the European Union. I see a commitment to doing something about the problem of infectious diseases, in particular HIV-AIDS. I see the world gathering around the problem of poverty and starvation, and we have to do more. I see free trade blossoming with respect to the next WTO round and the accessions of more countries to the WTO and bilateral trade agreements that we are writing left and right -- Chile, Singapore and others that are coming along.

So I see a lot of good things. I remember that I was raised in a time -- most of my adult life was raised in a time when nuclear holocaust was 15 minutes away.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.


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