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Colin Powell Interview on Abu Dhabi TV

Interview on Abu Dhabi TV

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC March 26, 2003

(11:10 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we've asked our viewers to participate in these questions and they've sent us overwhelming questions over the e-mail, so I'm going to try to cram in as many as I can. Let me start.

You seemed surprised that the Iraqis did not actually welcome you, welcome both Americans and British forces with flowers, as expected. The regime has not collapsed immediately and the Iraqi army is fighting back. Why is that do you think?

SECRETARY POWELL: We went into this conflict understanding that there would be resistance and we will deal with that resistance. What we are seeing from Iraqi forces is not a coherent defense across the width of Iraq, and we will prevail. And we will deal with these pockets of resistance as we choose to. But there's no question that the military operation will be a success.

I'm also confident that as the Iraqi people understand that we have come to help them, come to provide them with food, come to provide them with medical care, come to provide them with an opportunity for a better life under a better government that will live in peace with its neighbors, they will be welcoming.

Right now I think there is fear. They don't know whether they might be executed by Iraqi security forces; we've seen evidence of that in Basra and other places in the south. So I think there is still some fear and apprehension because a battle is going on.

Once that battle is over and they see what coalition forces have come in to help them do, I think they will be very grateful for the support we will be providing them and for the better future that we will be making possible for them.

QUESTION: You seem to be counting a lot on a change of heart both inside Iraq and from other Arab countries. What if that doesn't happen? What if, because of this large number of civilian casualties, you are held responsible in a way?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think there will be a large number of civilian casualties. We have done everything we possibly can do to minimize casualties. People thought Baghdad was being destroyed the other night only to awaken and find that all we went after were specific military and command and control targets, facilities that might be developing weapons of mass destruction.

There will occasionally be accidents. It is not a perfect war. There will be accidents and we regret any loss of life of innocent people; and we work hard to make sure that doesn't happen. But it occasionally does happen, and I think when this is over and people understand that we have come in peace -- we have a record over the past 60 years of fighting conflicts as decisively as we can to get them over, and in the aftermath of those conflicts, helping people to restore themselves to a better situation with a better governance.

We freed Kuwait 12 years ago. We have liberated the people of Afghanistan from the oppressive Taliban regime. We helped the people of Kosovo. We did it in country after country after World War II, and the United States did not stay as conquerors. We don't want to be conquerors. We want to help people to a better life. We want to get rid of dictators and despotic regimes. And then we want to see if we can help others in the region.

I think that once this conflict is behind us and people see that we're helping Iraqis, it will open up new opportunities. We are going to do everything we can to move the Middle East peace process along. As soon as a prime minister in the Palestinian Authority has been confirmed, Mr. Abu Mazen, we will be delivering the roadmap, the Quartet roadmap to both sides so that we can begin to find a way to move forward with the Middle East peace process and arrive at a Palestinian state that can live side-by-side in peace with the state of Israel.

QUESTION: This Arab roadmap that you're talking about is exactly what I want to ask about. Commentators ask all around the Arab world question the timing of the Palestinian roadmap and the war against Iraq. Are they coupled? Why at this time?

SECRETARY POWELL: The timing is very, very clear. The President made it clear when he spoke to this a couple of weeks ago and we have reinforced it at every point. The Palestinian people have now determined that they want to have a prime minister and that prime minister is in the process of forming a government, a cabinet. And when that cabinet is presented to the Palestinian legislature and they have a chance to give him a vote of confidence, then that cabinet is confirmed in office, as is Prime Minister-to-be Abu Mazen. And at that point we will present the roadmap as it was written and as we finished work on it last December. That roadmap will be presented to both sides and will be presented to the world.

QUESTION: It appears that that level of commitment to change after -- or just as other things change -- for example, this war is being waged without UN sanction. What happened to your earlier commitment that was stated loud and clear to UN blessing?

SECRETARY POWELL: This war is being conducted under the authority of UN Resolution 1441 and earlier Resolutions 678 and 687. 1441 is the most relevant one because last November by a vote of 15-0 the Security Council said this was Iraq's last chance. They must take this last chance or face serious consequences. They did not comply. They did not make that strategic choice to get rid of their weapons of mass destruction. So it is a war that is being conducted with international authority. And I am confident that when it is over, people will see that we are committed to a better Iraq, an Iraq that is democratic and living in peace. And we are also committed to finding a way forward in the Middle East so that the people of Palestine, so that the Palestinians will find a state that they can call their own. And we will help them bring that state into being.

Once we have eliminated terrorism and violence as a political action, once we have got the two sides talking to one another in order to find a way forward, and President Bush and all of us in his Administration are committed to working with the Palestinians and the Israelis and the other Arab leaders who have taken forceful and positive positions toward our efforts to find a way forward to create the Palestinian state living side-by-side, in peace, with the state of Israel.

QUESTION: Let me ask you simply; are you confident that you are going to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq? And if not, what happens then? Where do you stand?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'm quite confident we will find weapons of mass destruction and right now we are trying to finish these battles, and that's our priority. But already, as you may have noted in the hospital down south, when we went into that hospital that was being used as a military site against all international rules, we found lots of weapons and we also found chemical warfare suits, we found gasmasks, we found atropine surrettes that are an antidote for nerve agent.

Now, these materials were not purchased by the Iraqi army because they expected that we would use chemical weapons, they know we don't have chemical weapons. So they must have been purchased because they thought chemical weapons might be present on the battlefield and the only one who could deliver such chemical weapons would be the Iraqi armed forces. So we are confident that as this conflict comes to an end and we can get about searching the entire country, weapons of mass destruction will be found -- evidence of their production, evidence of development of weapons of mass destruction will be found.

QUESTION: Secretary Colin Powell, thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. [End]

Released on March 26, 2003

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