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Colin Powell Interview on Egyptian TV

Interview on Egyptian TV

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

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we thank you very much for joining us. And I know this is an incredibly busy time for you here. Thank you for joining us again.

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a great pleasure to be with you, and have a chance to speak to the people of Egypt and others in the Arab world.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir.

The war in Iraq got bloody; the human cost is adding; markets are tanking. And were people's expectations raised to high, as how short and how easy this war would be, talking about the military prowess?

How do you view this, not as a Secretary of State, but as a long time military planner?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, both, as a former general, and as now Secretary of State, let's keep in mind that the war has only been going on for seven days. Nobody should have expected that it would suddenly all be over on day one or day two. Unfortunately, that kind of hype is created within the media but it is going rather well. We have penetrated several hundred miles inside of Iraq. We are getting closer to Baghdad.

There is not organized resistance from the Iraqi armed forces and irregulars, but spot resistance. So I am quite confident that it will be a successful campaign. We want to bring it to an end, as quickly as possible. Casualties, frankly, have been relatively light on both sides for a conflict of this kind. But we regret any loss of life. But it is Saddam Hussein, and his regime, and his failure to act over the years that has brought this conflict to the world, and we want to get it over with as quickly as possible. But we will have to do it right, and not be in a hurry. We have to do it right, so it will take some time.

QUESTION: So this Iraqi resistance that you are encountering, is it pretty much what you expected?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, people expected different things. I always expected that it would not simply be a march up to Baghdad, but there would be resistance. But we have taken over 4,000 prisoners. We have seen some units that have said, we don t want to fight. There are others who do want to fight. And just consider the progress we have made over this period of time, and I think you will see that we sent in a force that was expecting that they would have to fight. They have fought well, and they have moved very far. And I think in the very nearest future, we will see additional success.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said you are closer now to Baghdad. Although the U.S. has sought to convince the Iraqis that this war is to liberate their country, a lot of them, a lot of Arabs hold this view that this invasion by the U.S. troops is an old fashioned invasion of U.S. troops. Journalists down back in Baghdad are telling us about how the explosions shook the earth beneath their feet.

So do you believe that this is the right way to win over the hearts and minds of the Iraqis?

SECRETARY POWELL: What we need to do right now is to defeat this regime and its military apparatus. We need to take down their command and control centers. We need to destroy facilities that might have weapons of mass destruction. And we need to fight those units that are coming out to fight us, and the command and control system that gives them their orders. And when that has been done, when this battle is over and these units have been taken out of the war, and when this regime has been brought down, people will see that we have not done that much damage either to Baghdad or Basra or any of the other cities which could have been, you know, really damaged. We chose not to.

We chose to be very careful, bypass populated areas, try not to have to go into these areas where there would be a high loss of civilian life, or we would have to use firepower that would destroy civilian facilities. So I think when this battle is over, people will see that we have waged it in a very careful way, minimizing loss of life and damage, and that we have come to help to put in place a more responsive democratic regime.

And we will be bringing in support; we will be bringing in supplies; we will be bringing in food; we will be bringing in health care for the whole population; and we will find a way through putting in place a new Iraqi authority, and working with the international community, to use the oil of Iraq to help the people of Iraq, and not to develop weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: But most of the casualties that we have seen on television were those of civilian casualties, and they were not military personnel, Iraqi personnel.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have seen a combination of both. We have seen hundreds of Iraqi people, prisoners of war, soldiers who have been taken. Soldiers have been killed and injured. Regrettably, some civilians have been injured, but we are doing everything we can to minimize civilian loss of life.

QUESTION: Now the Arabs are concerned. They are rather skeptical about the U.S. leaving Iraq in disarray.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have no intention of leaving Iraq in disarray. We have made it clear from the very beginning that if this war came and could not be avoided because Saddam Hussein would not take his last chance to stop oppressing his people, to stop murdering his people, to stop developing weapons of mass destruction -- if this war came, and it did, once we prevailed we had an obligation and responsibility to stabilize the country, make sure the country stayed intact, and to put in place a new Iraqi authority that would work with the international community to provide a better life for the people of Iraq and allow all the people of Iraq to participate in their government; and to use that opportunity also to jump-start the Middle East peace process. The President has announced that the road map will go down as soon as Mr. Abu Mazen has been confirmed by the Palestinian legislature.

QUESTION: And talking about the Middle East, when do you expect the road map to be implemented rather than just published?

SECRETARY POWELL: It will be published, and then it is up to all of the parties to implement it. And so, the first step is to get the Prime Minister confirmed. And I hope that will happen in the not-too-distant future. And the President has said the road maps will be presented to both sides and to the world at that time. And then we all have to work together to implement that road map, and start down the road to peace, ending all violence, and Israelis having to release control of places in the territory, so that commerce can begin again. And we have to take on all of the difficult obligations that are set out before both sides doing something about ending settlement activity and making sure we have ended violence, once and for all.

QUESTION: Well, I want to go back to the Iraqi issue. Economy seems to be the first casualty of this war.

Have you considered the harm incurred on your friends economically out of this war?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, we know that tourism is down. We know that trade has been disrupted. There have been some disruptions in the oil market. But I think those things are starting to stabilize. And that is why we want to get this conflict over with as quickly as possible.

Just imagine, once this conflict is over and the Iraqi regime is gone and people no longer have to worry about Saddam Hussein and his actions, people no longer have to worry about these weapons of mass destruction, and stability comes to the Persian Gulf area, I think that will be reflected in oil prices, it will be reflected in tourism, it will be reflected in economic activity throughout that part of the world.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, critics in the administration and your colleagues were unfavorably comparing your performance in this war to garner support and to build up a coalition to that of James Baker back in 1991. The U.S. is now leading a coalition only of the willing, and bypassed the United Nations, and left a divided Security Council.

How would you respond to these critics?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one, we didn't put together just the coalition of the willing. A coalition is always a coalition of the willing. And this particular coalition of the willing now has 47 nations; 47 nations are openly members of the coalition, and have asked to be identified with this effort. And there are many other nations that for a variety of reasons don't want to be publicly identified, but are also a part of the coalition of the willing. And we did not bypass the Security Council. We took this to the Security Council, debated it for seven weeks, and got a Resolution 1441 that was unanimously approved by the Security Council, 15-0, no abstentions. That was a major diplomatic achievement.

Now the second resolution that we did not succeed in getting just a short while ago, what was that resolution about? It was a second resolution that said Saddam Hussein has failed. He has lost his last chance. So that resolution was also leading to serious consequences and war. The reason we wanted that resolution was to give additional political support to members of the coalition, but we couldn't get that resolution because some permanent members of the Security Council said they would veto it.

But, even in the absence of that second resolution, coalition members went to their Parliament and said, "Nevertheless, we have sufficient authority in 1441, so that we should participate in this coalition." And the British Parliament, Spanish Parliament, Italian Parliament, the Australian Parliament all agreed and supported this conflict, our participation in this conflict. And they supported it on the basis of 1441; 1441, a diplomatic achievement that got a 15-0 vote from the Security Council.

QUESTION: So, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, we thank you very much --

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: -- for your time in that busy day.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. [End]

Released on March 26, 2003

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