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Powell En route to Davos, Switzerland

En route to Davos, Switzerland

Secretary Colin L. Powell
On board plane
January 24, 2003
SECRETARY POWELL: Okay, this will be a short one because they’re getting ready to serve dinner, so who wants to go first?

QUESTION: You have a message for the heart of old Europe?

SECRETARY POWELL: Into the heart of Europe? Switzerland is a beautiful country, surrounded by mountains. Davos will be interesting. I think it’s going to be a good opportunity to lay out our position with respect to Iraq and UN resolutions and all the other attendant issues. Also I think we’ll have conversations about North Korea and it will give me the chance to talk about America’s role in the world and the strong relations we have with our friends in Europe and elsewhere.

QUESTION: Can you talk about your meeting with Jack Straw yesterday and whether you discussed the option of giving the inspectors a little bit more time in order to bring France and Germany around, some sort of compromise?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I can’t discuss my personal conversations with Mr. Straw. I saw reports this morning as to what we were supposed to have spoken about, but it wasn’t a very accurate report about what we did speak about. Our plan is very straightforward, and a lot of the commentary all week long should be put in context with what our plan is. I think you’ve heard me go through this before. The President has made no decisions. He said he is waiting for the 27th of January to receive the inspectors’ report, along with other members of the Security Council and the world. Once we have received that report, those reports, we’ll comment on it, we’ll study them.

I’m sure that the President will speak to the issue at the State of the Union, but I would not expect to see any dramatic announcements at the State of the Union, if anybody’s waiting for that, with respect to this issue. I think that the President will lay out the U.S. position carefully, and then there will be a debate in the Council on the 29th. Prime Minister Blair will be at Camp David on the 31st to meet with the President. And then after I’ve had a chance to consult with my colleagues in the Security Council, all of them, and the President has had a chance to, as I’m sure he will, consult with heads of state and government, we’ll make a judgment about what we’ve heard and what we see then ahead.

The bottom line is that 1441 called for Iraq to perform and for the inspectors to help Iraq perform, not for the inspectors to perform in the absence of Iraq performing. It was not a search mission, it was a mission to assist Iraq into coming into compliance with UN resolutions. We wouldn’t be this far along, and I don’t think it’s that far along yet, but inspectors have been able to get in, they have been able to set up. But Iraq has not cooperated in the way that I had hoped they would, but I didn’t have great expectations that they would, but we gave them one last chance, as the resolution says. They wouldn’t have done what they’ve done at this point if it had not been for the power behind diplomacy, the military power behind diplomacy.

The President has made it clear that Iraq has to be disarmed, through its own efforts, with the assistance of the inspection teams, and with the mandate of the international community, or it will have to be disarmed by force. So a lot of the commentary, really, all week long, about where everybody stands and what’s going to happen is a little premature.

QUESTION: It seems quite likely that this level of cooperation will continue, in much the same way as it has done for the last three weeks. If that happens, how much longer can you wait?

SECRETARY POWELL: If that happens, I think that it will be an indication that it doesn’t depend how long the inspectors stay there, they will not be able to fully do their jobs. I’m not going to prejudge what the President might decide. I’m not going to prejudge that tonight. There are steps that we plan to go through, methodically, deliberately, just as we did when we took the case to the Security Council, just as we did for the seven weeks that we negotiated the resolution, and just as we have done for the last couple of months, just a we did when the declaration was submitted in December.

So we are doing this deliberately, wholeheartedly, patiently, but there will be ultimately an end, I believe, to the patience of the international community, and we’re doing it in full consultation and coordination with our friends and allies, some of whom have a different perspective on it than we do. None of which surprises me. There wasn’t anything said this week in public that I hadn’t heard privately, so I wasn’t shocked.

QUESTION: Sandbagged?

SECRETARY POWELL: It’s hard to be…well, let me put it this way. The conference was supposed to be on terrorism, but what was said in lieu of talking about terrorism was not the least bit of a surprise to me because we had talked about it the night before privately and we talked about it at lunch after the meeting.

QUESTION: In your speech on Sunday, do you plan to give any new information?

SECRETARY POWELL: Will I have any new information in my speech on Sunday? I don’t know what’s new to you, my dear. I’ll have to wait and look at it again and see if there’s anything in there that we have not already said within the last several days, between what Paul Wolfowitz did in a very comprehensive lay down yesterday and what Rich Armitage did on Tuesday. So I don’t want to mislead you. Nothing that would be beyond the kind of cataloguing of, yeah, pretty much like that. There may be something you haven’t heard before, but don’t expect that there’s some grand new element or announcement if that’s what you’re looking for.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in Davos, do you expect to see a South Korean, a North Korean, or both? You have a Korean interpreter on board, I believe.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don’t know who I’ll see. At Davos, you see everybody. We’re still working on meetings I’m going to be holding, and I haven’t really seen the final list of who is at Davos. There is no planned or unscheduled, unplanned meeting with North Korean representatives. I don’t even know if there is one that’s going to be there.

QUESTION: Speaking of North Korea, both you and Secretary Armitage have voiced moderate optimism in recent days about North Korea. Could you elaborate on that a little bit?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I think I said that there’s been some progress, but no breakthroughs. A lot of conversations are taking place. The Russians have come back with a plan, some ideas that they share with the North Koreans. There was a ministerial between the North Koreans and South Koreans this week. The South Koreans will be sending an envoy in, there have been some Japanese contacts. There are some things that are going on, no breakthroughs, I’ll say again. At the same time, I think it’s settled down a little bit.

The IAEA is considering whether they should meet to determine what action they wish to take as a board of governors with respect to the resolution of two and a half weeks ago, and whether to refer to the Security Council. So there are things moving. We’re listening carefully to what the North Koreans are saying, publicly, and privately, and they’re listening carefully to what we’re saying. I sense things have settled in for the moment.

It’s still a very serious situation, the characterization I’ve been using all along. Because they have not gone back into the NPT obligations that they had under the somewhat of the Agreed Framework obligations that they haven’t complied with. So it’s still a serious situation but I think that we’re working it diplomatically and I still have some optimism for a diplomatic solution.

QUESTION: What are the issues regarding the IAEA? Why wasn’t the meeting scheduled for the end of this week as Mr. Bolton said earlier?

SECRETARY POWELL: We initially thought they’d be able to have agreement for a meeting today. But as the week unfolded, there were some nations that did not want to meet this soon, and there were some other nations that asked for a delay because of something they were doing with North Korea. So the judgment was made in Vienna not to have it today. Now I think that they’re looking at new dates. There is no question in my mind anyway that it will get to the IAEA for consideration. There’s not quite the sense of urgency that I would have liked to have seen, but it’s not a major problem for us.

QUESTION: On Korea, why the resistance to direct, high-level American talks with the North Koreans? Why do we have to use all these other intermediaries? Why can’t we just sit down and talk to them ourselves? And a second one, several commentaries in the press said today that you had become more hawkish all of a sudden this week on Iraq. Do you consider yourself now an Iraq hawk?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are many ways to conduct diplomatic activity when there are two strong sets of views about to be reconciled. In this particular instance, there is a strong desire on the part of the North Koreans to talk directly to us. We believe that the problems that exist with North Korea is not just a U.S.-DPRK problem. It involves the International Atomic Energy Agency, a board of governors with 35 members, it involves violation of the North Korean – South Korean nuclear agreement of, I think it’s 1991 or 1992. So there are other nations involved.

I think other nations in the region such as Japan, Russia, China, have a role to play. They all want us to talk to North Korea. The President has indicated that we will talk at the appropriate time and in an appropriate manner. That will happen, I believe, eventually, and we will work out what the proper manner and form is.

With respect to the current label, people are hanging labels around me. I am what I am. You can call me or label me any way that you wish. I pushed for this UN resolution, and this UN resolution say Iraq gets one final chance to come into compliance with its obligations. Nobody wants a war. I don’t like war. The President doesn’t like war. He often says that I’m the one that has to meet with these mothers and dads later.

And so we pushed for a strong resolution to solve the problem, trying to get compliance with the will of all the international community and avoid a war. I pushed for that and I pushed for getting the inspectors back in to help Iraq meet its obligations. I also pushed for a final part of the resolution that said, at the end of the day, if we do not get the compliance that is required by this resolution, because of Iraqi continued intransigence and misbehavior and lying and cheating and deceiving, then it has to be referred back to the Council and Iraq would be subject to, I think the term of art we used was, serious consequences.

So my position has been, let’s try to solve this peacefully. If Iraq is not willing to participate in a way that solves it peacefully, then time will run out on Iraq and Iraq will pay serious consequences. I think that time is running out and there’s every incentive now for us to make that clear to Iraq. I think that’s what we have been trying to do within the Administration. Laying out the case, and you’ll see more of the case being laid out and repeated so that people understand it and so I don’t find my position over time and continuum of activity inconsistent, but if you do, fine, write it up.

QUESTION: To the extent that the premise would be that if there is action, you’d rather have UN support, how confident are you that if within the next few weeks you can pull together a majority either for a resolution or at least for support for action?

SECRETARY POWELL: It of course would be most desirable to have the whole community, the whole Security Council, behind it. We’ll have to see whether or not that is a possibility, as time unfolds, and as President Bush and others make their decisions.

If the Security Council rallied behind the need for the use of force, lots of countries would fall under that resolution. If they don’t, and it’s still deemed appropriate by the President and other leaders, world leaders, that military action needs to be taken, there are quite a number of countries that have already indicated that they would like to have another resolution, but without that other resolution, they will be with us. I don’t want to give names or to give you a count, because I think that each country should speak for itself on a matter as important as this, but we would not be alone. That’s for sure. I could rattle off at least a dozen off memory, and I think that there will be more.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, don’t you worry what that would do to the UN Security Council, and the UN system? I mean, in a way it will be Iraq’s choice, and other’s choice, but it’s also your choice if you go outside of the Security Council framework.

SECRETARY POWELL: I do worry, and that’s why we have said to the Security Council. Don’t shirk from your responsibilities. We believe this is a responsibility to take this to conclusion. The President, I think, made that clear in his speech on 12 September. I kind of talked to that point when I responded in the Security Council this past Monday. You can’t be afraid to go down this road because the going’s going to get tough or hard. You should have realized that was a possibility when you signed on and you became a party to 1441.

We were hoping for the best. We were hoping for a peaceful solution. We’re still hoping for a peaceful solution. That remains the President’s hope and wish, that remains our policy. But we also knew, the day may come when that wouldn’t be the case and we would have to use force, and the force that is being assembled now, as Don Rumsfeld noted the other day and says regularly, is designed to support diplomacy but it is also designed, if necessary, to be built up to do what is necessary to do. All right? Go to bed.

Released on January 24, 2003

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