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Powell Press Conference at NATO Headquarters

Press Conference at NATO Headquarters

Secretary Colin L. Powell Brussels, Belgium April 3, 2003

(4:40 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks and appreciation to the Secretary General and to the presidency of the European Union for making it possible for me to be here today with both the NAC [North Atlantic Council] and with all of the representatives of the European Union in two different sessions. I also had a series of very productive bilateral discussions. I came to Brussels today because I wanted to take this opportunity to discuss with our European colleagues the progress of our campaign in Iraq, Operation Iraqi Freedom, but beyond just talking about a military campaign I wanted to talk about the future.

The military campaign is going well. Two weeks into Operation Iraqi Freedom, coalition forces are slowly but surely reducing the capability of the Iraqi Armed Forces around the outskirts of Baghdad approaching Saddam Hussein International Airport, slowly reducing the remaining pockets of resistance in the south. Humanitarian aid is starting to flow. We ve been able to declare the southern most part of the country a secure area so that U.N. organizations can begin their work. And with each passing day Iraqi forces become weaker, coalition forces become stronger, a very skilled campaign is being waged, and we all hope that it will come to an end soon, and it is an end that will certainly be successful.

I briefed my colleagues on that campaign, but as I said, we really came here to talk about a future a future for the people of Iraq. A future that will be based on a new Iraq, an Iraq that is living in peace and freedom with a government that is representative of all the people, that is responsive to the needs of the people, a government that will no longer be developing weapons of mass destruction or dealing in terrorism activities or brutalizing its own people; a government that will use its oil wealth for the benefit of its people and not for preparing to invade its neighbors or to develop weapons of mass destruction.

I indicated to my colleagues that the work of reconstruction and rebuilding will require the entire international community to join together. We will be going through a phase process obviously in the post hostilities period. Initially, military commanders, the coalition commanders will be responsible for stabilizing the situation for securing the country and people, for making sure that we find all the weapons of mass destruction, identify them, destroy them, pull out the infrastructure and capability, making sure that we have disarmed any remaining remnants of the Iraqi army that might be a threat to their own people or to coalition forces. But at the same time, that military commander is performing that job, which is his responsibility as the commander of the liberating force, we will quickly want to bring in individuals who can establish an interim Iraqi authority so that the people of Iraq can very quickly see that their own representatives are moving into positions of authority and as the interim authority develops capability, responsibility will be passed to them to make decisions about the future of Iraq and how Iraq will be governed and how it will be led and how it will be administered.

We also expect that during this post-hostility period international organizations will have an important role to play. As President Bush and Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Aznar said at the Azores Summit a few weeks ago, the U.N. has a role to play as a partner in this effort. The specific role to be played by the United Nations was discussed quite extensively here among my colleagues. And these are discussions that will continue here, and will continue in New York, and I'll be having conversations with the Secretary-General about what I heard here as we work on what resolutions might be appropriate as we move forward.

I think this has been a very successful day from my perspective. It shows that notwithstanding the disagreements we have had within the trans-Atlantic communities -- serious disagreements, heated disagreements, where we came to opposite conclusions on a very important issue of the day -- we now must move forward and align ourselves again with the need to serve the Iraqi people.

The people of Iraq deserve a government that is responsive to their needs, that reflects all of the dreams and hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people. And it is our obligation, the obligation of the coalition, the obligation of the international community, the obligation of all of us, to make sure that hope is not deferred or not defeated. Thank you very much and I d be delighted to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, that military job that you envision, once Saddam Hussein is gone, would that benefit by the participation of NATO peacekeepers and do you are you more optimistic that there will be a consensus on a U.N. role? Have you made some movements in that direction today?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the second part of the question, there will definitely be a U.N. role, but what the exact nature of that role will be remains to be seen. We are hopeful that the Secretary General will, in the very near future, appoint a coordinator who can work with coalition and work with the interim authority when it is created, and to supervise the flow of humanitarian aid coming from U.N. organizations and also serve as the eyes and ears of the U.N. in the area. And so I ll be talking to the Secretary General about that again. What was the second part of your question?

QUESTION: It was about that, in that immense military task, will NATO be involved?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would not be able to answer that yet because I think this would be a judgment that would have to be made by the coalition military leaders. At some point the combat operation that is underway will transition into stability and security operations and ultimately into other kinds of operations, and we will have to make an assessment at that time of what the needs are. What I am pleased about today is that all of my NATO colleagues saw that as a possibility, and were willing to consider it. We placed no request before NATO today. Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, when he was here in December, laid out some suggestions that NATO could consider and they were tabled and they go to the usual activities such as peacekeeping, things of that nature. And I m pleased that there was at least a receptive attitude here today that NATO as a group is willing to consider a NATO military role if one is appropriate, and that s a judgment that will have to be made at some time in the future. So we ve begun a discussion within NATO. The important thing is that nobody raised any objection to that possibility.

QUESTION: My name is Fabienne Nerac, my husband is missing since your forces shot on his car. I sent you a personal letter this morning asking you for information and I would like to know if you are going to give me this information.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes ma am. I received an email from you yesterday, and when I received the information and realized there was a possibility that we might have some information about your husband, I immediately contacted our military authorities. For the last almost 18 hours now they have been hard at work trying to find out whatever they could about your husband. So far, we have not received any information back concerning your husband s situation but I want you to know that it is being looked at with all the intensity that we can bring to the case, and we ll be back in touch with you as soon as we find out any information whatsoever.

QUESTION: Will you make me a personal promise that you will check and give me that information?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes ma am.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I m very sensitive to this. I understand your feelings and as soon as we heard of it yesterday from my plane, we immediately contacted our military authorities in the region and asked them to look into it, and they have been looking for the last 18 hours, but so far, we have not received any information that would be useful to you. But I give you my personal promise; we will do everything we can to find out what happened.

QUESTION: When you came into office you were sort of a diplomatic star in the view of many Europeans, but in the last few months you have in the view of many Europeans but also Americans, you have become sort of a symbol of failing U.S. diplomacy. Do you regret that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don t believe I m a symbol of failing U.S. diplomacy. So I don t accept your premise. U.S. diplomacy --

QUESTION: It is not my premise (inaudible)

SECRETARY POWELL: We won t go to polls and ratings, but maybe another time. The issue is, I think U.S. diplomacy is alive and well, that s why I m here today. That s why I m here today to speak to all of my European Union colleagues and NATO colleagues about a way forward. The United States took a bold diplomatic step last September when President Bush went to the United Nations and presented a problem to the United Nations that one particular dictator and one particular regime that has been brutalizing its people and had been developing weapons of mass destruction for 12 years had ignored the will of the international community.

And we didn t go off unilaterally, we multilaterally -- brought it to the U.N. Seven weeks later, as a result of I think a lot of effective diplomatic work on the part of the United States and the other members of the Security Council, we produced a resolution, 1441, which was voted on unanimously 15 to zero, that said that Saddam Hussein and his regime is guilty, remains guilty, it s being given one last chance to come into compliance, and if it does not come into compliance, serious consequences would flow. And after several months and listening to the report of the inspectors, the United States and a number of other nations on the Security Council, and elsewhere in the world felt it was important that we take action. There were other countries that felt strongly that no action was appropriate, and we understand that public opinion in Europe was opposed to such action as well.

Nevertheless, the United States would not step back from its responsibilities and the responsibilities it felt the Security Council had as well. Some people suggested that we should get a second resolution. We didn t believe one was needed because of sufficient authority in 1441, which was passed unanimously. Nevertheless, we made an effort to get a second resolution. We were not successful so we pulled back because it clear that some members of the council were going to veto it no matter what it said. And so we decided let s not go with the resolution. We have enough authority.

And now we have a coalition of willing nations, close to 50 now -- it might be 50 today -- that have engaged in this operation. And in a period of two weeks time, through a very successful military campaign that has been conducted with great skill -- and a lot of commentary, but with great skill -- is close to achieving its objective.

And so we used skillful diplomacy to get to the point of 1441, but diplomacy must be backed by force, and diplomacy is useless if one is not willing to use force to impose the will of the international community on a nation such as Iraq, which violated the will of the international community for 12 years.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary. It s apparent that there s not yet a consensus within Washington as to what the role of the U.N. should be in the post-conflict period. But it s very clear here in NATO and among the European leaders that there is a strong feeling that the U.N. should have a very central role, a central political role as the French Foreign Minister described it. What kind of report are you going to bring back to Washington as to what you've heard here and how that should shape U.S. policy? And just secondly, do you think there should be some sort of conference along the lines of the Bonn Conference to set up an interim authority?

SECRETARY POWELL: What I will report back to the president and my colleagues in the National Security Council is what I have heard here today. This was a series of meetings of a consultative nature, and when you're consulting, you listen as well as speak. And I will report back what I heard.

We are still examining the proper role for the United Nations. I'm not surprised that there is not consensus yet because the debate and the discussion has just begun. And so we had a very healthy dialogue. We all understand that the U.N. must play a role. The president has said so; he said it clearly. The nature of that role and how it is to be played remains to be seen.

But one also has to remember that it was the coalition that came together and took on this difficult mission at political expense, at the expense of the treasure -- the money that it costs -- but at the expense of lives as well. And when we have succeeded, and when we look down the road to create this better life for the Iraqi people to rebuild this society, to rebuild this country after these decades of devastation wrought by Saddam Hussein, I think the coalition has to play the leading role in determining the way forward. This is not to say that we have to shut others out, and not to say that we will not work in partnership with the international community, and especially with the United Nations.

And so the resolutions that will be required, what will be in those resolutions and how responsibilities will be set up between different parties remains to be seen, just as it is in every instance, just as it has been done in Afghanistan.

How an interim authority will be developed is the subject of discussion, and I got some good ideas here today, which I will be sharing with my colleagues when I get home.

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, today has been said plenty words about the reconstruction of Iraq, but can you say about the reconstruction of -- political reconstruction of Iraq? Who will come instead of the regime of Saddam? And do you -- are you sure that the opposition of Saddam is a democratic opposition?

SECRETARY POWELL: We want to put in place a government -- initially put in place an interim authority so that a government can be raised up from that interim authority. Ultimately, the Iraqis themselves have to create their own government. It has to be a government that will preserve the territorial integrity of Iraq and will be representative of all the people of Iraq. The opposition leaders we have been working with are committed to that end.

And I believe that the kind of interim authority that we want to create and the kind of government we want to see rise up would be a government that would contain individuals who have fought long and hard for many years outside of the country for the liberation of Iraq, as well as individuals within the country who recognize the damage that Saddam Hussein has done to the country and who are willing to participate in a new form of government to provide a new life for Iraq and who will be committed to the values that we believe are important and which we believe the Iraqi people are deserving of. And so it will be a combination of those who have struggled from the outside, as well as those in the inside. But above all, it will be representative.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I'd like to ask, the Europeans seem to be pushing quite a bit for the road map, and I'd like to know the status of that and also if you can deliver.

SECRETARY POWELL: The road map is ready to be delivered. And as we have said and the President has said, we are anxious to present it to the new Palestinian Prime Minister. We are waiting for him to be confirmed as Prime Minister. We expect this will happen in the next week or two. Once he forms a Cabinet and receives the vote of confirmation or confidence in that Cabinet, then he will be confirmed. The road map will be delivered at that time, delivered to both parties and presented to the world.

And the United States will remain deeply engaged in working with both parties and other nations in the region and interested nations throughout the world to assist both sides in taking the steps necessary to move down that road map and to move toward peace.

We have been waiting for new Palestinian leadership to come forward, and we are now seeing that happen. We know that that new leadership, in order for there to be success, must be committed to the end of violence, the end of terror and to responsible government. And we know that there will be obligations on the Israeli side, as well. And so, once the road map has been delivered to both sides, they'll have an opportunity to comment on it and talk to each other about it, what the mutual obligations are. And we are ready to engage in a very, very -- very, very comprehensive and forceful way.

QUESTION: Mr. Colin Powell, do you still believe in the reasons that you gave to justify the war, after two weeks with a very strong resistance from the Iraqi people and no evidence of the weapons you are looking for? And second, do you have an idea what will happen, what they're going to do with the Iraqi regime after the war?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to what we've been doing for the last two weeks, we've been fighting a battle, fighting a series of battles, fighting a campaign. And that's been our priority. We have not yet started our search for weapons of mass destruction, which we know are well hidden throughout the country and within the Iraqi industrial infrastructure, but we will certainly be doing that. We have uncovered quite a bit of protective gear that the Iraqis have, which certainly suggested that they were prepared to fight in chemical environments -- so are we, but everybody knows and the Iraqis knew that we didn't have any chemical weapons to be used in a conflict. And so that's at least an indication that they were aware that they might be fighting in a chemical environment produced by themselves. And so we will continue to search and look for the weapons of mass destruction. I'm quite confident they will be found. And, I'm sorry?

QUESTION: Second, do you have any idea what they're going to do with the Iraqi regime after the war?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're going to -- not speaking about personalities yet -- but this regime will be removed. Those who are guilty of crimes against their own people or crimes against humanity will be brought to justice.

Thank you very much. [End]

Released on April 4, 2003

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