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Marc Grossman Interview by Egyptian TV

Interview by Egyptian TV

Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs

Washington, DC March 27, 2003

(2:05p.m. EST)

QUESTION: Ambassador Grossman, we thank you very much for talking to us. I am sure this is a very busy time for you.

MR. GROSSMAN: It's my honor. I'm glad to do it, and we're glad you're here.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. Let me start with Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is in the United States. And we heard what he said before the House of Commons before coming here about the necessity of giving a push to the Middle East peace process. That was one of the issues he discussed with President Bush as well. Now we hear that there are some voices within the Bush Administration that says that they are not ready yet to throw their political weight wholeheartedly behind the peace process.

MR. GROSSMAN: I am not sure that that's true at all. I think what Prime Minister Blair said before he came here matches very well with what our President has said over the past few months. Don't forget last June 24th: it was President Bush who talked about two states, a Palestinian state, an Israeli state, living side-by-side in peace. That's a very big thing.

And it was just a week or so ago that the President laid out the way we should go forward on the roadmap. And today at Camp David they both talked about the importance of the Middle East peace process. I know Secretary Powell talked about it with you yesterday. It's very important to us.

QUESTION: Right, let me stress this. It's true that the administration has it on record that they do support the creation of a Palestinian state. They do support on record also the dismantling of the existing Jewish settlements. They do have it on record that they are asking Israel to cease the construction of new settlements in the West Bank. But none of that has actually materialized, none of that has actually happened.

MR. GROSSMAN: But these things don't happen in isolation because we are also on record saying that there ought to be an end to terrorism against Israel. We are also on record as saying that the Palestinians need more democracy, which is why we are so pleased that there is a new Palestinian Prime Minister, I hope to be confirmed in the days ahead.

So this is a series of things that has to happen. That's why the Mitchell Report was so important, and also why the roadmap from the Quartet is so important -- these things don't happen in isolation. You are not just dealing with one country's problems or one people's problems. You're dealing all around this area and we have to deal with these things simultaneously.

QUESTION: So --

MR. GROSSMAN: And that is the advantage of the roadmap.

QUESTION: So if we are talking here about a time frame for all of this to start working out -- I was asking Secretary Powell yesterday that instead of -- or also besides having the roadmap published, which is what is going to happen soon, as I assume -- one, is it going to be implemented once both sides put their comments on it and make the necessary changes?

MR. GROSSMAN: As soon as we possibly can. As Secretary Powell said to you yesterday, the President committed to putting down the roadmap when the Palestinian Prime Minister was confirmed. And that's what we are going to do. Once that roadmap is out, it seems obvious to me, people will be able to comment on it and make contributions to it. No one is able to say, to dictate, this is how this should happen, this is how this should happen.

QUESTION: Word has it that the administration is going to be busy with the Iraqi issue for quite some time, and that is a long time before it's going to give its due attention to the peace process.

MR. GROSSMAN: No. The United States, first of all, is a great country. We can do more than one thing at one time. And, as Secretary Powell said to you yesterday, these things are connected. We want to deal with Iraq, so that we also have the opportunity to make peace in the Middle East. That is his commitment, and I know it's the President's commitment.

QUESTION: Ambassador Grossman, you are saying -- you are repeating and reiterating what Secretary Powell said --

MR. GROSSMAN: Right.

QUESTION: -- about the peace process. We do know about Secretary Powell's commitment towards the peace process. What about other voices within the administration? I know that there are certain voices from the Pentagon and from the National Security Council that do not think that the peace process should be given the driver's seat, or in the front seat. Again, they are -- have always put the peace process on the backburner.

MR. GROSSMAN: Well, you asked me if we could do both things at one time, if we could pay attention to Iraq and pay attention to the peace process at the same time. And the answer to that question is yes.

The second thing is there are voices all over the United States, and voices all over the administration. The voice that matters here is the voice of President Bush. And President Bush has said, "I am committed to the roadmap, and I am going to put the roadmap out when the Palestinians confirm their Prime Minister." That's the voice to listen to.

QUESTION: The Prime Minister has already been confirmed, as I understand. And I understand also that Prime Minister Tony Blair earlier on, a couple of weeks ago when he was nominated, he actually said that he was ready to invite him to visit London and have talks with him. Are you willing to invite him soon, the new Prime Minister, the Palestinian Prime Minister to Washington?

MR. GROSSMAN: I'll leave that choice to the President of the United States. But we think that a confirmation comes when he has a government, and the Palestinian parliament says, "Yes, you're the Prime Minister, and this is the government." Then we are ready to move ahead just as our President promised.

QUESTION: One of the concerns of the Arabs that they have always seen the United States, especially during this administration, to be in Sharon's corner. How would you respond to that?

MR. GROSSMAN: I would say that we are in the corner of peace. We are in the corner of anti-terrorism. We are in the corner of two states, side-by-side, as the President said. We are in the corner of a better life for people in Israel, and for the people of the Palestinian state, which we hope will come to fruition soon.

So I think it's certainly possible to say that we're against terrorism; we're for democracy; we're for economic development; we're for democracy in the Arab world. And I think all of our policies that we have pursued here have tried very hard to have that policy.

QUESTION: I want to turn now to the Iraqi issue, the issue which is at hand. And I was going to ask you about the concern that we have in the Middle East, the concern of the Arabs that the -- that Iraq would be divided and it would be left in total chaos once the United States finishes the job of getting into Baghdad and toppling the regime.

MR. GROSSMAN: Nothing could be further from our desire. From the very beginning of this, even when we hoped that Saddam Hussein would disarm peacefully -- and for this we have a lot to thank President Mubarak for, who encouraged again and again Saddam Hussein to meet his obligations to the Security Council -- but from the very beginning of this conflict, what have we said? We want an Iraq that is territorially integral, that's unified, that's democratic, that has no weapons of mass destruction, that's at peace with its neighbors.

So the idea that the United States would somehow be in favor of an Iraq of chaos, an Iraq that was split apart, is completely wrong. We have made our policy very clear from the very first day: the unity of Iraq, the territorial integrity of Iraq.

QUESTION: One of the issues that Prime Minister Tony Blair was discussing with the President also was a stronger role to the United Nations, getting the United States more involved and engaged in a post-war Iraq reconstruction effort. How far do you want accessibility to the United Nations? How far would you give the United Nations a role in post-war Iraq?

MR. GROSSMAN: I think as both President Bush and Prime Minister Blair talked about, there is the statement from the Azores which talks about an important role for the United Nations, an important role in humanitarian issues, an important role in coordinating what is happening there. And we believe that there is a role for the United Nations to play in Iraq. We'll see how this conflict goes on. I think the most important thing, as Secretary Powell and the President have said, is we want to get sovereignty and power back to Iraqis as quickly as possible.

For example, if you took over the Ministry of Health -- and I just use that as an example -- it may be that after taking out the top two or three people, you have a ministry that can quickly be turned back over to Iraqis. You might have a different situation at the Ministry of Defense, or the ministry of weapons of mass destruction. So I don't think any more that we should see this as everything is going to happen from day one to day X, and then day X to day Y. We want to get power and sovereignty back to the Iraqis as quickly as possible, wherever possible.

QUESTION: Again, I know that there are certain plans for the administration to form a sort of peacekeeping civil team under the military, who would report to the military, who would be taking care of the Iraqi matters. And, at this point, they would be bypassing the United Nations again. Is that going to be the case even --

MR. GROSSMAN: With respect, I don't think it will bypass the United Nations. Our President, along with Prime Minister Blair and --

QUESTION: A denial of the United Nations, then?

MR. GROSSMAN: No, again, I think that you have to look at what we have said here, and not all of the newspaper reporting that you read. We take our guidance from the Azores statement. And what does the Azores statement say? That the United Nations will have an important role in Iraq. Now I will answer your question.

Is there going to be a military period where the United States military and the coalition military will be in charge in Iraq? Yes, absolutely, because security, weapons of mass destruction, and other issues are going to have to be taken care of.

Do we want immediately after our forces liberate parts of Iraq for a civilian administration to come in and provide humanitarian relief and reconstruction? Absolutely.

But, as I said to your previous question, our objective is to move the control of Iraq back to Iraqis as quickly as we can, wherever we can.

QUESTION: So you are saying, and correct me if I'm wrong, that the United Nations will be taking over humanitarian issues at the beginning of a reconstruction of Iraq or in a post-war Iraq, but the administrative stuff will be entirely left to the British and the Americans?

MR. GROSSMAN: No, I didn't say --

QUESTION: Is that the case?

MR. GROSSMAN: I didn't say that at all. I think it would be worthwhile to go back and take a look at the statement that was issued at the Azores. It calls for a UN Security Council resolution. It calls for the endorsement of a civilian administration. And Secretary Powell said yesterday on Capitol Hill that we recognize our responsibilities here and we want to meet them. And the United Nations has a role in doing that.

QUESTION: Last question, Ambassador Grossman.

MR. GROSSMAN: Please.

QUESTION: How do you see Egyptian-American relations at this point?

MR. GROSSMAN: Egyptian-American relations are strong. Egypt is an important ally of the United States. We are very proud to be working with Egypt and the Egyptian people as we move forward to try to change the way the Middle East works, so that it works for people, and for democracy, and for economic development. And we're proud of that and we'd like to keep it up.

QUESTION: Ambassador Marc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs, we thank you very much for your time.

MR. GROSSMAN: Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you. [End]

Released on March 31, 2003


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