Colin Powell Remarks with Spanish Foreign Minister
Remarks with Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio After Their Meeting
Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC March 25, 2003
(5:00 p.m. EST)
SECRETARY POWELL: It's a great pleasure again to have the opportunity to meet with Foreign Minister Palacio. We've had an excellent discussion. We, as you might expect, talked a great deal about the situation in Iraq. I gave her my assessment of the way in which the battle is unfolding according to plan. I'm proud of the actions of the coalition military forces who have been able to advance so far into Iraq in a very short period of time and I would remind everyone that it's only been six days -- less than a week -- and we're hundreds of miles inside Iraq and on the outskirts of Baghdad.
There obviously will be some difficult days ahead, but this is a plan that is being carried out with great professionalism and skill by the coalition military. We took this opportunity, also, to thank the Foreign Minister and through her President Aznar and the Spanish Government for the strong support that Spain has provided to us at the UN as well as putting the coalition together, and for her untiring work to take the case to the people of the world; and I hope you all paid attention to her op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal today, which, I think, summarizes the situation with respect to the United States and Europe and our mutual interests very, very well.
We also talked about the Middle East peace process. I told her that we are looking forward to the confirmation of the new Palestinian Prime Minister Mr. Abu Mazen, in the very near future. And when he is confirmed, then we will be in a position to release the roadmap, which I hope will be a new step forward in finding a solution to the tragedy of the Middle East. So it's my great pleasure to have Foreign Minister Palacio here, and I invite her to say a word and then we'll take your questions.
FOREIGN MINISTER PALACIO: Well, thank you, Colin. Well, may I just begin by saying from the bottom of my heart how close I, personally, and the government feels to the young American and British men and women that are now in Iraq, and to the families of the ones that have been killed in action or have been wounded or have been made prisoners; and of course, to the Iraqi people that is suffering the consequences of the Saddam Hussein's regime and the contempt on the obligation by the international community.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell said, we had a very discussion. We have kept very close contact during these past months, but from time-to-time it's important, and I think that we are going through very, very intense days to just, not to have the phone, and just be able to speak just personally.
As Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned, we have, of course, spoken about Iraq -- the situation, especially the emergency aid situation and the work that is being done at the Security Council, especially by Secretary General Kofi Annan to put together a resolution that will cover the aid, the UN aid in Iraq.
As he mentioned, we have spoken about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. As you all know, this has been very high on the Spanish Government priorities and especially on the priorities of Prime Minister Aznar's. And we are really looking forward to the confirmation of Abu Mazen and the confirmation of the team that will be with him and to the publication of the roadmap and to keeping, to pushing forward this peace process that is really a necessity.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. Questions.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have worked hard on improving relations with Russia. Have these technology deals with Iraq spun it into reverse? How did they get the stuff there? Could Belarus possibly have provided some of these weapons?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. I don't think the relationship has been spun in the reverse. This is a serious matter. We have raised it with the Russians on a number of occasions. I can't, at this time, trace for you how the material got there but we know it's there and over the past 24 hours I have given, through our embassy, additional information to Foreign Minister Ivanov and the Russian authorities that I hope will allow them to get on the trail and take what we believe is appropriate action.
It is of concern to us and we're speaking about it very candidly and openly with the Russians. I can't comment on whether or not Belarus is a source or not.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, speaking of Russia, you're also trying to get a new resolution through the Security Council on Oil-for-Food, on a reworking of Oil-for-Food and there seems to be Russian opposition in the Council to this. I know you've said before that you don't see how anyone can oppose getting humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, but it appears some can. Could you explain that?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, we have been having debates over the last three days on a new Oil-for-Food resolution that will allow the Secretary General to begin managing this program after the program was suspended at the beginning of the conflict. Issues have been raised by Russia and some of the other members of the Council and we are working through all of this, and I hope we can find a solution in the very near future because what we are talking about is getting access to the Oil-for-Food program distribution system, contracts that have already been let and are in the pipeline, and unobligated money that can be used to assist the people of Iraq. So I think we ought to all come together and see this as a humanitarian effort, which has nothing to do with any of the positions one might have taken or not taken on the second resolution or the earlier debates. And Foreign Minister Palacio and I discussed this and will be in touch with our colleagues on the Security Council to press this point and hopefully find a solution in the next couple of days.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, once all of this aid has gotten in, once you've gotten to Baghdad, once that has all been accomplished, how do you think you go about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people who have been so badly battered over the last 20 years?
SECRETARY POWELL: They have been battered for the last 20-odd years by the policies and actions of Saddam Hussein. He has squandered the treasure of the Iraqi people. When I think that they have access to $20 billion a year of oil revenues and he spent it on weapons of mass destruction, he spent it on oppressive instruments of his regime, he spent it on attacking his neighbors; and when you think that some 20 or 25 years ago Iraq had the GDP of, say, of Portugal, and all of that was destroyed by Saddam Hussein.
Once that regime has been eliminated, and once we have an opportunity to get in there and work with the Iraqi people and help them put in place a responsive government, a government that reflects all of the people of Iraq, that wishes to help all of the people of Iraq, a government that is committed to getting rid of the weapons of mass destruction, a government that is committed to using this $20 billion a year for good purposes and not evil purposes, I think the people of Iraq will welcome all of this and understand that we have come in peace -- not as conquerors, but as liberators.
QUESTION: Question posed to Foreign Minister Palacio in Spanish.
FOREIGN MINISTER PALACIO: Answer in Spanish.
SECRETARY POWELL: Anyone else from the Spanish press?
QUESTION: Question posed to Foreign Minister Palacio in Spanish.
FOREIGN MINISTER PALACIO: Answer in Spanish.
SECRETARY POWELL: Anyone else from the Spanish press? (Laughter.)
QUESTION: There's an uprising in Basra. People there, as you know, sir, they have no water; they have no electricity. How do you assess the situation there and have you seen the pictures for the civilians, Iraqi civilians killed there in Basra?
SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't seen those photos yet. I have heard reports of an uprising in Basra. I can't confirm the reports and I cannot tell you how large it is or what success it may or may not be having. We'll have to wait and see how that situation unfolds. We know that some water is now flowing into Basra -- not enough; and we have humanitarian organizations within our military and our civil side of our government standing by to help, and international organizations standing by to help. And as soon as the security situation resolves itself and as soon as the Port of Umm Qasr is cleared so that ships can come in with humanitarian supplies, we're confident we can reverse the situation very quickly, but it is a matter of utmost concern to us and to the coalition leaders -- military leaders.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) asked you what conclusions you come to either here or in the talks in New York about the role of the UN in the future Government of Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: We're having discussions about this within our administration and Foreign Minister Palacio and I discussed it and I'm sure I will be discussing it when I see Foreign Secretary Jack Straw tomorrow evening.
We're in an early stage of discussion. There will be a role for the United Nations. President Bush and President Aznar and the Portuguese Prime Minister and the British Prime Minister all said so when they had their meeting in the Azores not too long ago. And we're now working with Secretary General Annan and our Security Council colleagues to determine what kind of role should be played by the UN, what authorities are needed to do it in a way that will make sure that the gains of the coalition military action are harvested and that it helps put in place a new government of the Iraqi people and for the Iraqi people and by the Iraqi people to paraphrase a great American.
So we're working closely with the UN and Security Council members. As we start to structure what resolutions might be required in the future beyond the Oil-for-Food resolution.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Turkey, you said the economic package was off the table, yet we have something, Congressional supplemental. What is the change of mind? Why?
SECRETARY POWELL: The $6 billion economic package that we had been speaking of earlier, financial package with an economic component and opportunity to use part of that component for obtaining loans, that package went off the table. But because of our friendship with Turkey and because of our realization that Turkey may have needs as a result of the conflict that's taking place now, we thought it would be very prudent to put an amount into the supplemental that the President announced today and we've been discussing for the last two days publicly that reflected our commitment to Turkey and as a need develops, we don't want to find ourselves not having requested in the supplemental, money that might meet those needs.
So at that moment, it is a request that we're putting before the Congress in this supplemental and we'll see what needs exist in the future for those funds. Turkey is a great friend. I'm deeply appreciative -- all Americans are -- of the efforts made by Mr. Erdogan to take this issue to his parliament. And we are in the closest consultation with Prime Minister Erdogan and Foreign Minister Gul and other officials on their needs, and in the closest consultations with them with respect to the situation in Northern Iraq. We're trying to restore their (inaudible), we are monitoring the situation in Northern Iraq so that we don't see a humanitarian crisis develop which would lead to a flood of refugees heading toward the Turkey-Iraq border. And we hope that with those assurances, Turkey will not see a need to pursue incursions across the border.
So far, notwithstanding all the reports and all the speculation to the contrary, there has been no crossing of the border and Turkey continues to give us assurances that they see no need for that now. But we are talking to them about how both sides would respond, and how the Kurds would respond, three sides: Turkey, the United States and the Kurds, if there was a humanitarian crisis that caused a problem along the Kurdish-Iraq border.
Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you have an update on the POWs?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. We (inaudible) asking the inquiries that they did. They have been in touch with Iraqi authorities requesting the kind of access that is expected under Hague, Geneva Convention and ICRC rules. But I have heard nothing back. That's a question you really ought to take to the Pentagon.
QUESTION: Are there any talks still ongoing? At the beginning of this crisis there, you know, people were saying, well, there are talks going on, we're trying to resolve this peacefully. Are there any talks going on now?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that, whether or not there are conversations taking place between Iraqi leadership and perhaps neighbors in the region. I'm not aware of any direct talks that we're having with them at a political level.
QUESTION: Is Iran or Iranian-backed or based groups playing a constructive role or are they playing -- are they becoming a problem in any way?
SECRETARY POWELL: They are not yet -- they are not a problem and they are not playing an unconstructive role.
QUESTION: And about Turkey, I mean you referred yesterday to erroneous media reports that they had gone across the border, and we -- but there's --
SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I mean most of my weekend was spent with people calling me that they have crossed. Correspondents were standing up on television saying 1,000 commandos have gone across.
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister did say that.
SECRETARY POWELL: There are brigades -- huh?
QUESTION: The Foreign Minister said it. The Turkish Prime Minister said it.
QUESTION: Yeah, at least the Foreign Minister said it.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think he said 1,000 of them, but it got very confusing and we had succeeded in getting the overflights taken care of and there was no confusion about, you know, on this and we were in close contact with the Turkish colleagues. I spoke to Mr. Erdogan several times and Mr. Gul (inaudible) and we wanted to talk to them about what might be needed in the event of an emergency. But that emergency hasn't arisen and they have not crossed the border.
QUESTION: Is the roadmap take it or leave it? The President's words were, we would welcome contributions, which suggested that it's open to refinement. The State Department has taken a different line, frankly and I wonder what your --
SECRETARY POWELL: Our line is the same as the President. When the confirmation has taken place, the roadmap will be released. Now, it'll be released to the world and to the two the parties. The two parties will have to start talking to one another from that roadmap. And we're sure that they will have comments on it, but the roadmap is going to be released as it was finished in December.
QUESTION: Have you talked to Bill Keller recently?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. I haven't had the occasion to talk to Mr. Keller.
QUESTION: Did he call you for his piece?
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh no. He told me about the piece the night before when he came to see me.
QUESTION: The Arabs have said they wanted to appeal to the Security Council to intervene and stop war in Iraq. What will your position be on this?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are going to prosecute this war to its conclusion. And that is to free Iraq, liberate the people and remove this regime.
QUESTION: Does that mean you will veto in case they do --
SECRETARY POWELL: There's nothing -- I don't know of any resolution that is pending before the Council or am I aware of any resolution about to be introduced before the Council. There'll be an open debate beginning tomorrow and we'll follow that debate, but I'm not aware of anybody proposing a resolution. But that could well happen.
QUESTION: What do you think about the Oil-for-Food resolution?
SECRETARY POWELL: I can't predict that. There are some intricate issues that have to be resolved, but I want it as soon as we can get it. It's important that we start loading the system again. There are 55,000 distribution points in Iraq. We're going to need those distribution points. We're going to need the Secretary General to have the authority to start allowing these contracts to continue through and to act as the agent. So that's why I think it's important and I've been in touch with my colleagues in the Council, especially Foreign Minister de Villepin this afternoon. I've spoken to Foreign Minister Fischer and we've had good discussions about this. They have some issues that we have to work our way through but we're hard at work.
QUESTION: Can you tell us more about the purpose of the summit meeting? The three-way summit?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think as Prime Minister Blair said earlier today, he and the President always expected they would get together at about this point and that's what they are doing, so the Prime Ministers are going up to -- coming in tomorrow, going out to Camp David. I will be meeting with Jack Straw and then we'll all be up at Camp David Thursday.
QUESTION: Secretary Powell, do you mean that no changes can be made at all in the roadmap? You seem to imply that.
SECRETARY POWELL: I think what I said was clear: We're issuing the roadmap and the two sides will then have the roadmap and we'll try to move out on the roadmap, but I cannot, you know, comment on it. I'm sure there'll be comments and we'll see what those comments are. But it's important for us to get started and not just get into a circular discussion again that goes nowhere. So that's why we'll be issuing the roadmap, releasing it as soon as Mr. Abu Mazen has been confirmed as the Prime Minister of the Palestinians.
QUESTION: After talking to the French and Germans, do you get the feeling that this isn't going to reach the level of contentiousness of 1441? I mean do you get the feeling with them that there are no red lines drawn yet?
SECRETARY POWELL: 1441 was a major diplomatic achievement. 1441 and 15-0 is the basis upon which this conflict is being fought. It's the legal basis and it took seven weeks to get it. Remember in 1998-9 it took seven months to get 1284 and then they abstained.
QUESTION: So you want seven days now? That's how it's moving?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, I won't say that. But it's nowhere near as contentious as the second resolution. And the second resolution, as you know, we didn't need. Our friends expressed a need for it. We worked hard. We were unable to get it in the presence of obvious veto. What's fascinating, and nobody has really focused on this is that all of the nations who said they really needed it: the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Australia, we pushed hard to try to get it for them. We didn't get it, but guess what? They all still went to their parliaments. And Mr. Blair went to his parliament without that second resolution and got support for this action, as did Italy, as did Spain, as did Prime Minister Howard of Australia. So, and the reason they were able to do that and make the case in the coalition is because it was the diplomatic success with 1441 that gave us a legal basis for this.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you talk to us about weapons of mass destruction and what percentage of (inaudible) weapons of mass destruction and how concerned are you that they are so well-hidden by now that you won't find them?
SECRETARY POWELL: I really can't answer the first question. I will have to yield to my Pentagon colleagues. But I'm sure that in due course we'll find them. Now, the military operation right now, once again, I'm a little bit in the Pentagon business. The military operation is focusing on the enemy. And there will come a time when the enemy has been defeated to make a more thorough search for the weapons of mass destruction facilities. So I wasn't expecting to start tripping over them right away. That'll take a more intense search.
QUESTION: But the finding of those chemical weapons, the chemical weapons storage area yesterday.
SECRETARY POWELL: What?
QUESTION: The chemical munitions storage area that was found. Have you cleared up those reports?
SECRETARY POWELL: Somebody said there was a report yesterday or the day before of a building that could have been. I think it's been looked at and it isn't.
QUESTION: Right. Oh, okay.
SECRETARY POWELL: So we really have to wait until you get into one of these places and let the experts look at it before you can make a judgment as to whether it might or might not be involved in a --
QUESTION: Anything further on these reports yesterday that Saddam was planning to use chemical weapons in the south?
SECRETARY POWELL: No. Those are just reports and you get lots of reports. And you have to treat them seriously. There was a report that we had set off an area around Baghdad that was penetrated --that would be a trigger to use weapons of mass destruction. But that's all they were were reports. But our troops are prepared to deal with that environment if it's necessary. We know how to do that. We hope it won't be necessary and if were to use them, he'd be admitting his own guilt.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) find them (inaudible)?
SECRETARY POWELL: We'll find them.
QUESTION: There's money in the supplemental for a new embassy in Baghdad. Do you plan on going to open it?
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.
Released on March 26, 2003