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Powell Interview by Al-Ahram

Interview by Al-Ahram

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC February 10, 2003

QUESTION: -- they stated that their opposition to war at this particular time. Why isn't the United States putting these views into consideration?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are taking all views into consideration. Nobody wants war. The United States does not want war. Egypt does not want war. The solution to the possibility of war is very straightforward. Iraq should disarm.

The international community came together in New York last November 8th at the Security Council and passed a strong resolution, 1441; and in that resolution everybody acknowledged that Iraq had been guilty of hiding its weapons of mass destruction, that Iraq was being given one more chance to come into compliance and to get rid of these weapons of mass destruction, that the inspectors would help Iraq, but that if Iraq, once again, failed to answer the international community, then Iraq must face serious consequences.

We cannot have an international system that functions when you have a nation such as this that continues to develop weapons that he has used against his own people and against his neighbors. He has invaded his neighbors.

The United States did not invade Iran, Iraq did. The United States did not invade Kuwait, Iraq did. Iraq used chemical weapons against Iran and chemical weapons their own people and fired missiles at neighbors during the Gulf War. So the problem is not with the United States, the problem is with Iraq. We would be pleased at a peaceful solution, but the President is determined, and I think the international community is determined, that Iraq must be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction. And if it is not done peacefully, the President believes strongly, and I think many other nations believe strongly, that a coalition would then have to use force to disarm Iraq.

There are many nations that believe as we do: the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, the Group of Eight that put out the statement last week, and then the Vilnius Ten that put out a statement last week. And we hope that people will understand that if force is used, it will be done in the most measured way, and it'll be done not for the purpose of hurting the Iraqi people, but for the purpose of dealing with a regime that simply is irresponsible.

And in the aftermath of such a conflict the United States and its coalition partners would do everything we could to help the Iraqi people, to give them a better life, to help them use the $20 billion a year that they get from oil revenue to build hospitals, to build schools, to build roads, to improve agriculture, to take care of poverty, to do all the things that are possible in Iraq if Iraq was not spending this money on weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: What about the stiff opposition of Moscow, of France and Germany just yesterday and today? And they are really, quite very tough in their position.

SECRETARY POWELL: Russia -- they are. They have a strong view. Russia and France voted for Resolution 1441, which calls for serious consequences if Iraq did not comply. Iraq has not complied.

Russia, France and Germany, which is a member of the Security Council, and many others believe that there should be more time given and that there should be more inspectors added. We are sensitive to those concerns, and we listen to them. They are our friends, they are our allies.

But it is not how many more inspectors should be put in, it is will Iraq comply? And if Iraq complies then you don't need more inspectors. There are more than enough inspectors. But if Iraq does not comply, if it is not cooperating, if it is not turning over documents, if it is not letting people speak freely about what they know, if they are not bringing in the missiles we know they have, if they are not telling us what they did with the anthrax and the botulinum toxin, then more inspectors does not solve that problem. The problem is Iraq is not complying and not cooperating. And more inspectors, in and of itself, is not the answer in the absence of Iraqi cooperation and compliance.

QUESTION: But the Blix and Baradei yesterday, I mean, declared that the Iraqis were very positive and they understand and even today they declared that they permit the U-2 on (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there's a statement today that said they would start letting the U-2s fly, but the U-2s are not the answer if they are still going to try to hide everything on the ground from the U-2s. The U-2s might be able to assist in the disarmament, but the U-2s, in and of itself, are not the answer, nor are more inspectors.

We're pleased if they are letting the U-2s fly, but what happens is, every time the inspectors go and visit, Iraq gives a little bit more -- a few more documents. Okay, why didn't they give them the U-2 on Saturday or Sunday? No, they wait until Monday, and maybe it can start Wednesday. So the Iraqis are playing a game that we are all familiar with.

We have watched this game for 12 years. And the region would be better off if this game comes to an end one way or another. If Iraq truly wanted peace and did not want to see war in the region, they would be saying, "Here are all the documents, here are all the facilities, you don't need a U-2, here it is, we'll show it to you. You don't have to take a picture from the sky. You can come take a picture right up close."

We would not be playing this game of detective. We would be playing a game of "You wanted to know? Here it is. Come look." And they still are hiding. They still are deceiving. They still are not showing their willingness to comply.

QUESTION: Would you be ready to receive an Arab delegation to seek a last-minute compromise that could avoid a war?

SECRETARY POWELL: Us receive a delegation?

QUESTION: We're hoping a voluntary resignation of President Saddam and major changes in the system.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Arab nations have been playing a very important role by supporting the position that said Saddam Hussein must disarm. President Mubarak, especially, has been playing a very, very active and important role in suggesting to the Iraqis that they comply and avoid a conflict, and in his position of leadership within the Arab world, making that case to other Arab leaders.

If the Arab leaders wanted, as a group, to approach Saddam Hussein, certainly that is their prerogative and we would welcome such an approach, but it has to be an approach that says to Saddam Hussein, "You must comply." And of course, I would always be willing to receive any delegation from the Arab world or from any --

QUESTION: --would Saddam's resignation be enough?

SECRETARY POWELL: Excuse me. Or from any representative of the Egyptian Government if that's the question. I'm sorry. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Would Saddam's resignation be enough or what else would you demand?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we need to see is a regime that is changed or a changed regime that is gone. And it isn't just one person.

We need to see a change. The United States has no desire in the event of conflict of going in and pulling Iraq apart or breaking all of its institutions. Those institutions are needed to take care of the people, to run the systems. It is the regime that's at the top that is causing all of this trouble in the region and for the Iraqi people and for the world. And if that regime down to some level, I don't know how many, were gone and responsible leaders stood up and said to the world, "Look, they are gone. We are now here. We are in control of this country. We invite the UN to come in. We invite others to come in, a coalition to come in to work with us on finding where all of these weapons all, and we will tell you everything we know. We will give you all the documents, you can interview all the scientists. Here's what we know about what happened to the anthrax. Here's what happened to the VX." We should not take lightly the dangerous nature of these weapons.

And it is not the United States accusing without evidence. Iraq admitted, they admitted years ago, that they had anthrax, that they were working on nuclear weapons, but they admitted it only after they were caught -- not voluntarily. And so we have got to see a change in attitude where they are now voluntarily telling us everything they have done.

And if a new leadership would do that and would work with the international coalition to come in and help them, peacefully, then that would be a significant, significant step.

QUESTION: Why did the United States refuse to even consider the, the reported proposal from Russia and the France to deploy UN peacekeeper --

SECRETARY POWELL: Because the proposal, one, there is no proposal yet. The only thing we know about is additional monitors and some technical material.

QUESTION: No one's proposing 12,000 UN soldiers?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. Nobody's proposed that. Nobody has proposed that. Have you -- where did you see that proposal? In a paper? In a German newspaper called Der Spiegel.

QUESTION: Yes.

SECRETARY POWELL: But it was immediately discounted by both the French and the Germans. I know of no proposal for peacekeepers or blue helmets except in this newspaper article.

QUESTION: There are seven, seven conditions what made the (inaudible) radio of any country.

SECRETARY POWELL: What President Chirac said today in his press conference with President Putin was more monitors and technical means, which is pretty much what Foreign Minister deVillepin was talking about at the UN last week.

So if they were just talking about an additional number of inspectors and maybe some additional technical means, that is interesting. The United States proposed that when we first passed 1441. Let's have three times as many inspectors. If he's going to cooperate, let's do it fast.

But now it is not for the purpose of helping them, it is for the purpose of slowing down the momentum to deal with this matter once and for all. So the issue is not more inspectors or more technical capability. The issue is Iraq compliance and Iraq cooperation and Iraq coming forward in the way I described a moment ago.

QUESTION: Can you -- one question for the Mid-East. Within the present conditions, do you still believe that we can meet the deadline set in President Bush vision to establish a Palestinian state by 2005?

SECRETARY POWELL: It remains our goal. It is a -- an ambitious goal and it'll be a difficult goal to achieve, but the President remains firmly committed to the vision that he laid out in his speech of 24 June last year, which also captured the vision of the Arab League, which was fueled by the vision of Crown Prince Abdallah. And so that still remains our position. We have been working with our Arab friends and we've been working with the EU and with the UN and with the Russian Federation through the Quartet to develop a roadmap.

Now that the Israeli elections are over and a government is being formed, and we'll see what happens in Iraq one way or the other, I have been in constant conversation with the President about this, and he remains as committed as ever to his vision to find a way forward in the Middle East along the lines of his speech of last year.

QUESTION: The Russians reported yesterday that the views of Sharon and President Bush are identical. Did the views of Mr. Sharon change or what happened?

SECRETARY POWELL: I, Mr. Bush's views are well known. He gave a powerful speech on the 24th of June. It captured the needs of both sides, the need for the end of terror and violence on the one side -- the needs on the other side for a Palestinian state and for the end of settlement activity. And it will be difficult to get there. These are not issues that are easy to solve. But the President remains committed to the vision of his 24 June speech, and he will listen to leaders from both sides. He is very mindful of the views of President Mubarak and King Abdallah, and Crown Prince Abdallah and all of the leaders of the Arab world, as well as listening to Palestinian aspirations and the wishes of the Palestinian people and listening to the desires of Prime Minister Sharon.

You cannot leave any party out and just say, I take that party's position and I ignore the other party's position. The President remains committed to this 24 June mission.

QUESTION: Last question. How would you consider Arab public opinion fears that Iraq will be the first in the U.S. hate list of Arab and Muslim nations?

SECRETARY POWELL: The U.S. has no hate list. The U.S. does not look for countries to hate. The U.S. looks for friends and partners and most of the nations in the Arab world are our friends and partners. Most Muslim nations in the world are our friends and partners.

And I must say that if you'll look at our history, our record of the last 12 years, when Kuwait, a Muslim nation, was invaded by a neighbor, Iraq, who came and restored Kuwait to its legitimate government? Did we make Kuwait the 51st state of the United States or did we restore Kuwait to its legitimate leadership?

We did what we always do. We gave it back to its people. We are a partner of Kuwait. Do you we have troops there, yes. For our purpose? No. For security in the region.

When Kosovo was in danger, the Muslim population of Kosovo, who led the coalition that went and fought for those Muslims? And Kosovo is now moving forward. It still has a difficult road ahead. And in Afghanistan, when Afghanistan became the center of terrorism with the Taliban supporting al-Qaida, and something had to be done about it after 9/11, the United States did that working with the Muslim nation, Pakistan, as our partner and friend.

And we went and we removed the Taliban regime and we're now searching out the remaining elements of al-Qaida. And what are U.S. troops doing in Afghanistan now? Going after terrorists and helping rebuild a country. Our Congress is putting billions of dollars in to help the Muslim population of Afghanistan. We have helped President Karzai go back into a position of authority. We have helped with the creation of institutions in Afghanistan.

Are we new imperialists who want to run Afghanistan? No. We want to help the Afghans determine their own future and help them. We're rebuilding schools, we've created conditions so that a million Muslims have been able to return to their homes in Afghanistan. So this suggestion that the United States has nations on its hate list is just ludicrous.

We want friends and partners around the world, and we have shown ourselves over the years to be a friend and partner, solid friend and partner, of every nation that wishes to be a friend and partner with us in the region.

QUESTION: So once you achieve your goals in Iraq and post-Saddam era you leave or are you going to ask for bases or facilities?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course we leave. We want to do what is necessary if conflict comes, and we hope conflict won't come. We still hope for peace -- a peaceful resolution. But if conflict comes and we have to go into Iraq, it is our goal, our simple goal, to find a solution quickly to put in place a government in Iraq to help Iraqis put in place a government in Iraq that would be responsible to the needs of all the people of Iraq that will keep the country together and will dedicate itself to the elimination of weapons of mass destruction, to proper standards of human rights, and we will help fix all of the systems that are now broke with respect to healthcare, with respect to education, with respect to institutions that rest on, you know, responsible leaders, and then we want to go.

We have lots of demands on the United States.

QUESTION: What do you ask from Egypt?

SECRETARY POWELL: Egypt, we ask, as always, from Egypt for their support and their friendship. President Mubarak is a strong leader. He is a leader that we -- he's a leader whose wisdom we value and then we stay in close touch with President Mubarak. President Mubarak is also a leader of his own nation and has to be responsive to the needs of his own nation and to the will of his people.

These are difficult times and we will find ways through these difficult times. It is also a time where there is a need for all of us to be respectful of each other, to be respectful of each others' religions. This is the time when we see hatred coming forth, those of us in positions of leadership should speak against that hatred, whether it's hatred manifested by anti-Semitism, or hatred manifested by anti-Muslim comments or activities.

We can leave this room right now and I can take you to, within five minutes, I can take you to a mosque, a temple, a synagogue, a Catholic Church, Orthodox Church. You know we know what diversity is. We know what the strength of all the religions of the world are when they harness together in peace in the manner in which we've done here in the United States.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, are you going to respond in kind if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction? What is your doctrine?

SECRETARY POWELL: We never discuss that. Why aren't you worried about Iraq using weapons of mass destruction rather than, "Would you respond if Iraq uses weapons of mass destruction?" Will you scream bloody murder if Iraq uses these terrible weapons that Iraq says it does not have. How could they use them if they don't have them?

Now, if they use them, the United States, we have no, no intention of doing anything that would hurt the people of Iraq, but we will do what is necessary to defend ourselves. But I hope before everybody asks what the United States would do, somebody would say, "My God, they did have them. They were lying."

###

[End]

Released on February 11, 2003

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