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Powell Interview with Regional Journalists

Interview with Regional Journalists

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC January 21, 2003

QUESTION: We've got a tentative lineup, starting with a couple questions on Iraq. What is the danger in allowing more time, even a couple of months more, for the inspections to progress and for more evidence to accumulate?

SECRETARY POWELL: The danger is that people would just allow the process to drag on and there will be no resolution. They have had a lot of time. They have had 12 years. They have had since 1441 was passed in early November. And what we have been looking for is a serious effort on Iraq's part to comply with the will of the community, the international community, as expressed in 1441.

And to give them an early test and to give us an early test of whether they would comply or not, we fought for and got into the resolution the declaration that was required, in early December, you will recall. And that was an early test as to whether we were going to be playing the same old game or a new game where, instead of us looking for the needle in the haystack, they would say, "Here's the haystack. We're taking the hay out of the way. There's the needle. You can verify that it is there. And that's where a needle used to be and we can prove why it isn't there any longer."

It's not the attitude we're getting. We got a false declaration, full of gaps, full of holes, and ever since, they've been playing the same game and stringing things out. And so suddenly we find 12 missiles, or rockets, last week. Oh, where'd they come from? And then Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei go in and start to let them know this is your last chance. And, oh well, we just found four more, and now we're going to send people all over the country looking for things. And yes, we will give you more information. Oh yes, we will now think about passing a law that they should have passed long ago.

And so the question isn't how much longer do you need for inspections to work. Inspections will not work. It's the skepticism that we have had all along to give Iraq one last chance for inspections to work if Iraq would work. And what Iraq has to do is come clean, stop it, stop the nonsense, stop the cheat and retreat, stop trying to figure out where the inspectors are going tomorrow morning, stop frustrating the reconnaissance that we're trying to use to help the inspectors, the air reconnaissance. We know the gaps that exist between how much anthrax you could have made and what you reported as having destroyed. A lot of the items that Deputy Secretary Armitage used in his speech today, those are easily quantifiable things, if they wanted to do it, if they weren't trying to hide things. We all know that they have some mobile capability with respect to their weapons of mass destruction. They know what we're talking about. Produce them.

And so unless we see that kind of change in attitude on the part of Iraq, then how much longer should inspections go on? One month, two months, three months? What will be the difference if they are simply trying to get time in order to frustrate the purpose of the inspections? The purpose of the inspections is not to find a needle in a haystack. The purpose of the inspections if for the haystacks to be identified because Iraq says there's nothing in the haystacks. That's what they're saying.

And so this is the time for them to come clean and cooperate fully, and without any more games or reservations and ten-point plans with Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei. I'm pleased that the two inspection teams have gotten more access than they have had previously, but let's remember why they're getting that access. It's not because the Iraqis have suddenly changed their way of doing business, which we had hoped they would do, but because they are feeling the heat. They are feeling the pressure of the international community and they're feeling the pressure of military force that may be brought to bear.

QUESTION: To encourage Saddam Hussein to go into exile, as has been talked about the last couple of days, would you be prepared to give an explicit promise that he and top members of his regime would not be pursued for war crimes prosecution?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's not for the United States to excuse anyone from international prosecution, but I'm not sure what the whole international community might be willing to do. I think we would be receptive to anything that would get him and his family and his cohorts, the immediate group around him, out of power. But I can't say now what the actual conditions might be or what protection he might be given. I just can't -- I can't get into that hypothetical a discussion, although I could tell you there would be a lot of enthusiasm for such a deal, and enthusiasm tends to produce opportunities to encourage such an action.

But I see nothing that suggests that there is any such real proposal on the table. I'm not aware of anybody who's gone in and said, "Oh, Great Leader, here's a deal for you from various people who were mentioned as being involved in this." In fact, I think the Saudi Foreign Minister, if I'm not mistaken, earlier today, specifically said -- and I wasn't watching that closely, but said that they have not been conducting any such activity.

But the world would be better served if this regime would step down, step down right away, and we would have to take a look at what replaced it. And if what replaced it was led by somebody who immediately stood up and said, "We're coming into compliance and we're going to tell you everything you want to know. We're going to make available to you every scientist. You give us the name, and you will be able to talk to that person in the next day or so without any minders, without any tape recorders, without any threats to their family. And we want to cooperate with you fully to get rid of this stuff which is doing us no good except about to bring disaster down upon our country."

QUESTION: Why do you think, though, all these anti-war protestors in our country and the French Government, for instance, and the Germans, have such a different view of this? What is it that the administration is not getting across to them?

SECRETARY POWELL: You'll have to speak to them because I think the case is rather clear. This is a regime that has ignored the will of the international community for all these years. And we stood together as a body on the 8th of November, I think it was. And by a vote of 15 to 0, said come into compliance. And there was a reason for that resolution. The resolution recognized that they had been ignoring the will of the international community and that there was sufficient evidence that should have convinced anybody that this was a regime that was pursuing these weapons of mass destruction and, even more frightening, it was regime that has demonstrated in the past it would use them.

QUESTION: But what happened -- what's happened between the resolution passing and now? I mean, Prime Minister Blair took a bit of a grilling today from lawmakers in England about his commitment to the United States and, you know, throw that in with what happened with the French at the UN. There does seem to be a shift somewhat.

SECRETARY POWELL: Nobody wants war. The President doesn't want war. I don't want a war. War is to be avoided if at all possible. And there's great unease -- it goes to your question. There is great unease in many places, and there's some unease within the United States as well, about war and the consequences of war.

But sometimes, force is necessary to achieve a worthwhile purpose and to protect our country and to protect the world. And the United Nations, with the United States leadership, made a judgment that this was one of those circumstances where Iraq presents that kind of danger and that kind of threat to the world and it has to be disarmed. We have a joint resolution of Congress that says that, and we have 1441 that says that.

Now, what has changed between 1441 and today? We have now seen several months of the same pattern of behavior that we have seen for the previous years, 12 years or so, that didn't get us a solution to this problem. And the United Nations, and the international community as represented by the United Nations, cannot simply say, "Well, you know, we passed this resolution, but we don't want to go down the road that was called for in this resolution if Saddam Hussein does not disarm." It is a chilling prospect for many nations, but the United States clearly understood that a day might come when we would have to take those steps in the absence of Saddam Hussein disarming. And we are reaching, we are getting closer to that moment of truth. And I am confident that with more presentations of the kind that Secretary Armitage made today and the documentation that went out today, it will be clear to the people in the world that this is a problem that has to be dealt with.

QUESTION: But how --

SECRETARY POWELL: I have worked very hard in my two years as Secretary of State and worked under the President's guidance and leadership to have smart sanctions, to contain them and to hopefully move them in the right direction. We have worked with friends and allies around the region trying to get the message through to Saddam Hussein. The President has tried diplomacy and gone to the international community. But we believe that this is a threat to the people of Iraq, to the people of the region, and ultimately to the people of other parts of the world and to the United States.

QUESTION: Getting back to Mark's original question, actually, with French leaders being so public, coming out so public and saying that, you know, why don't we just give it a little more time, I mean, what kind of message can you give to their leaders that we can't wait this amount of time? I mean, is it a message -- is it a message --

SECRETARY POWELL: What did they say? I mean, what they said is we should let this process continue. But it's not clear to me how long they want it to continue or whether they're serious about bringing it to a conclusion at some time.

The United States has not made a decision yet as to what should happen after the 27th. We are all going to watch and listen carefully on the 27th when the inspectors present the results of their work. I will then consult with my colleagues in the Security Council and other nations around the world. The President will consult. Prime Minister Blair will be coming over. It will be a chance for further consultations. And then the United States will make its decision. We have not made a decision as to what will happen after the inspectors present on the 27th.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about --

SECRETARY POWELL: It's almost as if people want to make a decision before the 27th. We haven't made a decision.

QUESTION: Let me ask you about oil, which is of interest people --

SECRETARY POWELL: Oil?

QUESTION: Oil, from Houston. There has been some reports there's a dissension in the administration over what to do, say, after a war with the oil fields, with some people, such as yourself, saying, well, it should be under a UN guidance and --

SECRETARY POWELL: I said that?

QUESTION: Well, there have been some reports that you were on that side versus Eliot Abrams and others who want the US to take control and privatize them.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no. There is no disagreement. This is speculation that has no foundation. If there is a conflict with Iraq and we and the leadership of the coalition take control of Iraq, the oil of Iraq belongs to the Iraqi people. And whatever form of custodianship there is, initially in the hands of, you know, the power that went in, or under international auspices at some point, it will be held for and used for the people of Iraq. It will not be exploited for the United States' own purpose. We will follow religiously international law, which gives clear guidance with respect to the responsibilities of an occupying power, if it comes to that. Everybody speculates about what my views are, what Eliot's views are, what somebody else's views are. What I've just told you, you can take to the bank.

QUESTION: So it can't be used to pay for the war?

SECRETARY POWELL: You mean to reimburse us?

QUESTION: Correct.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know of anybody who's made that suggestion. It'll be held in trust for the Iraqi people and it will benefit the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: Who would hold it? I mean, it would be under --

SECRETARY POWELL: That I cannot answer, if that's your specific question.

QUESTION: But it would not be --

SECRETARY POWELL: Hmm? Let me answer the question this way, and this is the best answer you're going to get. It will be held and it will be used in accordance with international law that lays out specific responsibilities of an occupying power.

And at this point I can't get into, you know, who's got title, how is it sold --

QUESTION: Could we go in and privatize it?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't get into that. Privatizing?

QUESTION: You know, or separating -- I mean, it's now pretty much state-controlled. I mean, could we go in and, I don't know, sell it off to various -- (laughter).

SECRETARY POWELL: I think they've answered the question. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Who would operate the oil fields, I guess he's asked?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't --

QUESTION: Chevron-Texaco, or would the Iraqi National Oil Company continue?

SECRETARY POWELL: We don't have an answer to that question yet. It will be held. If we are the occupying power, it will be held for the benefit of the Iraqi people and it will be operated for the benefit of the Iraqi people. How will we operate it? How best to do that? We are studying different models. But the one thing I can assure you of is that it will be held in trust for the Iraqi people, to benefit the Iraqi people. That is a legal obligation that the occupying power will have.

QUESTION: Has any decision been made about the occupation, what form it would take? Would it be our Army Civil Affairs units? Would it be under UN trusteeship? Would it be military?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are a variety of models and they're all being examined. In the first instance, of course, if it's a military occupation, the military is initially in charge. But there is no desire for the United States Armed Forces to remain in charge or to run a country for any length of time beyond that which is necessary to make sure that there is an appropriate form of government to take over from the initial military occupation. I don't know how long and nobody can tell you how long that period of time is.

QUESTION: Could oil revenues be used to finance some of the costs of the occupation?

SECRETARY POWELL: In order not to split hairs or pretend that I'm an expert, let me just rest on the argument, on the simple statement, that whatever we do will be consistent with international law with respect to the responsibilities of an occupying power.

And the oil belongs to the Iraqi people. How it will be used, how the funds generated by the oil will be fed back into the Iraqi economy, I can't get into all of those issues. Whether or not it can be used to assist the occupying power in conducting activities that support the Iraqi people -- for example, their humanitarian relief efforts, what it might cost us to deliver humanitarian relief to them -- these are all issues that I just don't have the expertise to get into.

But I know that in our conversations, and a lot of work is being done, in our conversations the overarching, guiding principle is we will be consistent with the requirements of international law.

QUESTION: At this stage -- I think Secretary Armitage used the phrase today "wishful thinking" to describe the French attitude towards continued inspections. At this stage, with the report coming up on the 27th, do you see anything that could change the attitude of our -- the French and the German allies?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't speculate as to what might change their attitudes. I think what we have to do now is to be patient, wait and see the report on Monday, see what Dr. Blix and Dr. El Baradei think are the prospects for achieving the goals of 1441. And then the President will consult with his fellow heads of state and government, I will consult with my foreign minister colleagues, and there will be debate within the Council beginning that afternoon, I am sure there will be some discussion, but, really, the discussion of the report begins on the 29th.

QUESTION: If we could shift to North Korea, and I think we have two other issues after that. On North Korea, how much closer are we to direct talks with North Korea?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have a number of channels in operation. We have received a number of reports back from people who have been in to talk to the North Koreans recently. As you know, an Australian delegation went in and spent quite a number of hours with the North Koreans. Mr. Strong went in on behalf of Kofi Annan. The Russians have -- an emissary has just come out. And we have North-South talks taking place in Seoul.

There are also a variety of bilateral contacts that have gone in and, as you know, we are in touch with them in our mission in New York. We have ways of communicating with them.

All of these contacts and conduits are being used to explore how to go forward. I'm comfortable that we are making some progress, but I don't think I'm predicting a breakthrough for you. As I'm sure you all understand, negotiating with the North Koreans is a very difficult, arduous process.

But we have reaffirmed to them the President's willingness to talk, the United States to talk, and we are trying to determine whether or not it's best to do that within a multilateral framework or bilaterally, or bilaterally within a multilateral framework. So we're looking at different models of handling this, and it's a very delicate time now and a lot of what we're doing, we're doing it quietly and with some discretion. But I think we made some progress.

QUESTION: Senator Kennedy today in a speech at the Press Club, speaking about Iraq and North Korea, he said on Iraq, "I'm convinced this is the wrong war at the wrong time. The threat from Iraq is not imminent and it will distract America from two more immediate threats to our security, the clear and present danger of terrorism and the crisis in North Korea."

I mean, how do you respond to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: What did he say, then? The right war in the right place is North Korea?

QUESTION: I -- I --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I mean, I've heard this criticism now for several weeks, and I'm saying to myself, "What, then, are they suggesting?" What we are looking for is a diplomatic solution to a very difficult situation with respect to North Korea. We are not underestimating the danger inherent in a nuclear-armed North Korea; far from it, we are the ones who discovered that they were moving down a different track, enriching uranium as well as what they could do at the facility at Yongbyon.

The United States didn't ignore that reality. We faced it, we told our friends about it, and then we told the North Koreans about it, and told them that there is a better relationship working, if they stop doing this kind of thing, stop proliferating missiles and other technologies around the world, and did something about this huge army hanging over the 38th parallel. And if we can start to resolve these issues, the United States was prepared to take a bold approach. We told them that we're not going to attack them. We're not going to invade them -- have no need to, no desire to.

And so we faced this issue head on, did not shrink from it. But we need to find a solution moving forward that does not leave in place the same thing that was left in place with the Agreed Framework. And that is a place that is bottled up, and a genie that's been put back in the bottle, as the Agreed Framework did, but left the bottle there so that the cork could come out when they wanted to bring the cork out. And guess what? There was another bottle.

We have got to make sure that whatever solution flows from this, it deals with the nuclear question once and for all. And I think Senator Kennedy also understands -- he and I stay in relatively close touch -- understands that the United States has to be extremely sensitive to the views of its friends in the region, who are most directly affected by this kind of North Korean activity -- the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Russians and the Chinese, the Australians and others.

And it is for that reason that we have followed the diplomatic route and we have stayed very closely in touch with them. And if there's one thing I'm pleased about so far is the solidarity that we have been able to generate with all of these nations. They have all spoken out against what North Korea has done and they have all spoken in support of the diplomatic approach that we are taking and they are all hopeful that conditions can be created where we will be able to talk directly to the North Koreans and find a solution.

But what everyone has to understand is that we cannot get to a solution where the United States is essentially bargaining with North Korea in a way that suggests that we will give them something to cause them to stop doing what they shouldn't be doing in the first place, and what they shouldn't have been doing. They are in violation of no less than four agreements and they need to come out of violation of those agreements, and we will try to find a way to make it easy for them to do that and do it in a way that they can feel that they are not threatened by any attack or invasion, as they somehow think they are subject to, from the United States.

So I understand the good Senator's concerns, but I think we're handling this in the proper way, handling it diplomatically, and I don't know why anybody would want to suggest, if the suggestion is, let's move the war from Iraq to North Korea.

And I don't think it's a fair criticism to say that we have to deal with one the same way as you deal with the other. Iraq -- 12 years of misbehavior. They have used these weapons against their neighbors, against their own people. North Korea -- for eight years we thought they had been contained, capped at Yongbyon. My predecessors -- Madeleine Albright and Warren Christopher, Bill Perry, President Carter, President Clinton -- all did a good job, and I have never hesitated to give them credit for bottling up Yongbyon.

But there were flaws in the Agreed Framework. One, the material was never removed. It's still there, and that's the problem we have now. And, two, they didn't know at the time, and we didn't know for the first year and a half of this administration, that they had immediately, almost immediately, begun to ignore the Agreed Framework and their other obligations by trying to achieve the capability to enrich uranium.

QUESTION: Shifting to domestic, affirmative action. You've spoken out in favor of the University of Michigan's admissions policy. Why do you think affirmative action is still necessary? And with the White House taking the opposite view of Michigan's admission, where do you think this issue will lead in terms of the Republican Party's outreach efforts to African Americans and other minorities?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the Michigan issue, I think reasonable people can differ over the merits of the case. And I know the President spent a long time thinking about the case and he came to the conclusion that it was unconstitutional and -- because the President always ultimately goes with what he believes in and the principles he believes he's upholding, he then entered a brief to that end.

But at the same time, the brief really just focuses on the Michigan case and there are other issues underlying it with respect to affirmative action that I don't know that the court will get to. We'll see what the court does. It was a simple issue where, you know, everybody could agree, then it would not be before the Supreme Court.

The President and I have talked about it and he knows that I had a different view. No problem. He and I talked about affirmative action and affirmative access over the years that I've known him, and I continue to believe that outreach is important, and affirmative action and affirmative access are important as ways to broaden the pool from which minority individuals can be drawn into institutions of higher education.

I believe a public university should serve the entire public that it's supposed to serve. And if a part of the public is not being served, I think that those universities have an obligation to try to find a way to serve them.

If you can find a race-neutral way, everybody would support that. There would be no debate about this. But I have found through my experience, in private life as well as in public life, that if you just wait for things to happen on their own, they tend not to in our society. Unfortunately, we're not a race-neutral society.

So that's why the President supported the Texas legislature when they said let's take the top 10 percent of our high school graduates and get them into the University of Texas system, and why I still continue to believe there's a place for affirmative action in our society.

With respect to the Republican Party and politics and outreach, I'm Secretary of State.

QUESTION: I have a question about AIDS. I travel to Africa quite a bit. I've just spent a month there. And everyone there asks me about statements that you've made about AIDS, some very strong, including that AIDS is as important or maybe more important than terrorism will be when we look back on history.

I'm very familiar with what the administration has done, with Jack Chow being appointed and the mothers-to-child transmission, but there's a great lack of urgency, there's a great lack of sense that this is a crisis, that this is an emergency in this administration, and also, I think, in other rich countries.

What can you do to make this an emergency?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is an emergency and it is a crisis. And the President has spoken about it. I've spoken about it. We're the ones who helped get the Global Health Fund launched. The contribution so far from us has only been 500 million. I wish it was a lot more and I hope it will be a lot more in the years ahead.

Believe it or not, we have more than doubled the purchase of condoms, and AID in the distribution of condoms, to try to prevent the transmission of disease. We have put together, as you know, the President's mother-to-child transmission program, which is another $500 million.

And when you add on top of that all of the money that is allocated in bilateral programs for HIV/AIDS work, and all the research that takes place under the auspices of the National Institutes of Health and what HHS does, and the way in which we have organized ourselves with a joint cabinet level task force, I think that shows that we realize it's a critical issue.

And it is a devastating issue with respect to the countries that have these exceptionally high rates of infection. And it's going to spread. It's going to spread to some of the larger countries in the world, India and China. And we talk to the Indians, we talk to the Chinese about it. We may not make headlines every day with it, but I think we have a respectable record to show the world that we got on top of this -- no one is on top of it -- we got on to the problem as soon as this administration came in office. And I would welcome any additional support that Congress or private sector individuals would like to add, foundations and the like.

And in my meetings with my colleagues in other parts of the country, especially other parts of the world, wealthier parts of the world, the two themes that I have been reinforcing once we get past Iraq and Iran and things like that, are hunger and HIV/AIDS. And they tend to go together. HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases -- tuberculosis, malaria -- when you marry that up with malnutrition and hunger and the lack of food in so many parts of the world, they reinforce one another and make it an even greater catastrophe.

All of us need to do more. It is something that does require the kind of crusading effort that you described, but I feel comfortable that the United States does view it as a crisis and is trying to do everything we can, and I expect the President will be making more announcements in the future.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, that's about all we have time for.

QUESTION: One more? Do you feel as though you were sandbagged by de Villepin on yesterday, and had you known what was in store for you from the French, would you have gone to participate in that meeting?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think that might be a bit much. The conference was about terrorism. And frankly, the 15 presentations were pretty good and all focused on terrorism, and our need to do more. And there was only one comment in there that kind of got off into another direction, and that was when my colleague Joschka Fischer said something which caused me to respond. I did not know that Minister de Villepin was going to go out and sort of let his press conference get totally devoted to this. And of course, when I made my press conference I wasn't aware exactly what happened at his. And so that drove all the headlines.

Unfortunately, it overwhelmed what the purpose of the conference was all about, and so it might have been better for the French to have not focused it that way. That's why I'm late. He and I have just had a conversation.

QUESTION: Was it pleasant?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was a candid and honest forthright exchange of views.

QUESTION: In very undiplomatic speak --

SECRETARY POWELL: It's a blip. I mean, everybody knows the French position and we'll have more conversations with the French. But I'll let them speak for their position. Our position is that Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and he can either do it peacefully or he can step down and let someone else do it or it will be done for him. And I hope the French will come to the understanding of the need for such a strategy and the importance of such a strategy, and that the United States will stick with that strategy.

Thank you.

[End]

Released on January 22, 2002

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