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Interview on France's TF-2

Interview on France's TF-2

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC March 3, 2003

(9:20 a.m. EST)

MR. LEENHARD: Mr. Secretary, can you tell us if you are confident that the U.S. will get a majority of votes at the UN next week?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, we are talking to our friends on the Security Council and I am increasingly optimistic that if it comes to a vote, we will be able to make a case that will persuade most of the members of the Security Council to vote for the resolution.

Of course, there are permanent members of the Council who have the option of vetoing such a resolution, but as you know and as your watchers and listeners know, there is a great deal of diplomacy taking place, there are great debates taking place as to how to move forward. But I hope that if we take the vote for a resolution, we'll be successful in getting the necessary votes to pass it.

MR. LEENHARD: President Chirac was in Algeria yesterday and he said that thanks to the U.S. pressure, military pressure, Saddam was starting slowly, but starting to disarm. Are you concerned with the possibility of so, that the war was not necessary? Are you concerned over the possibility of a veto from France at the UN?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, I agree very much with President Chirac that it has only been through the threat of military force that Saddam Hussein has done anything. The limited cooperation we have seen is only the result of force, political force under Resolution 1441, and the threat of force by U.S. and United Kingdom forces moving into the region.

Trust me, if he did not see that threat of war, there would be no cooperation. He would be doing what he has been doing all of these years: ignoring the United Nations. For 12 years, and especially since 1998, saying, I don't care what you think, pass all your resolutions, what do I care? I'm going to develop weapons of mass destruction to threaten the region, to threaten my own people, to keep a tight dictatorial rule over my country, and I don't care whether you like it or not.

And then finally, this past fall, the United Nations once again met and passed a resolution and this time said you must comply or face serious consequences. He's still not complying and therefore the choice is before us as to whether he should face serious consequences and whether the UN is irrelevant.

Now, France will have to make its own judgment as to how it will deal with this resolution. France is a sovereign nation. I understand the feelings of the people in France with respect to war. We don't want to see a war, but we also know that if it hadn't been for the threat of war, nothing would have been accomplished over the last four months; and if it is still not possible to get a strategic change in the mind of Saddam Hussein, then war may be necessary to compel him to disarm. And it will be a better region and a better world and a less threatened world once he is disarmed, one way or the other.

MR. LEENHARD: You've said several times that time is running out for Saddam Hussein. President Bush has said the same thing. We get the impression, from a European perspective, that time is also running against the United States, that the more you wait, the more you get in trouble at the UN, with the Turkish. Can you answer this, please?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are prepared to do what is necessary militarily, if it comes to that. And although we were disappointed in the Turkish vote, I can assure you that our plans are flexible enough to handle this decision on the part of the Turkish parliament.

Obviously, you cannot keep a force like this, this large, just sitting around for a long period of time, as some have suggested. And that's not the right solution anyway, just to keep a force sitting around. The right solution is for him to comply, for him to disarm. And if he would disarm, this force would go away. But he has not made that strategic choice.

You can see it in what he has been doing with these missiles he's been destroying. One day, he says, no, I will not destroy them, I don't have to, they are not a violation. And the next day, he sends a letter to the inspectors, a very nasty letter, saying, well, I'll let you know in 48 hours what I'm going to do. And then he destroys one, then another.

But he is keeping in place the infrastructure to make them all over again once the pressure is off. We have the pressure on. This is the time to use that pressure, and, if necessary, use force to solve this problem once and for all so that it will not be a problem next year or the year after. Saddam Hussein must be disarmed and he must be disarmed now, one way or the other.

MR. LEENHARD: My last question, Mr. Secretary. You say that war is not inevitable and you know that European political opinion thinks that war is -- will happen because the United States will need force to remove Saddam Hussein from power. What can you tell them about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: The issue is Saddam Hussein disarming. He has chosen to try not to disarm. He has chosen to divert our attention. He has chosen to deceive us once again. And unfortunately, my French colleagues believe that more inspectors will be the answer. But the inspection team has not asked for more inspectors. The inspector teams say that they want to see Saddam Hussein comply so that the inspectors can do their work.

My French colleagues say let the inspections just keep going. But we know from history that if Saddam Hussein sees that all he has to do is play with the inspectors for a long period of time and not truly make the decision to comply, those kinds of inspections will not work. And if they ever get close to getting his weapons of mass destruction, he'll do what he did in 1998; he makes it impossible for them to do their job and they will leave the country.

Don't underestimate the ability of this dictator to play to the desire for peace in the international community as a way of keeping his weapons of mass destruction. And we are determined that this time he must be disarmed and the world will be better off once he is disarmed, and I think European public opinion at that point will say hmm, maybe this is something we should have supported. We saw the same kind of reaction and public opinion before the Gulf War, but after the Gulf War when we had restored Kuwait, then people realized that maybe that was the right thing to have done.

MR. LEENHARD: Thank you very much. [End]

Released on March 4, 2003

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