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Powell on World News Tonight With Peter Jennings

Interview on World News Tonight With Peter Jennings

Secretary Colin L. Powell Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt June 2, 2003

QUESTION: How much real leverage do you think you have? Not just influence but real leverage with the Palestinians, with the Israelis, with the other Arab leaders -- to do things your way?

SECRETARY POWELL: It s not a matter of doing things our way, it s a matter of using the roadmap that s been put before the parties, which captures the President s vision of last June 24th and using that roadmap to get started toward that vision of two states living side by side in peace. We have a new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Palestinian people will decide who they need in new leadership, Saddam Hussein is gone, and isn t a threat to Israel. As you know, Prime Minister Sharon won his election a couple of months ago so he s got a new government in place now. And the President has turned his attention to this issue because he sees that there is a new dynamic in play. And everybody knows we can t stay where we are. The Palestinian economy has been destroyed; the Israeli economy is in difficulty. Israel doesn t want to keep its troops deployed forever in these cities and towns. So I think all the pieces have come together and we are here at Sharm el-Sheikh to take advantage of new elements in the equation and this window of opportunity to build on.

QUESTION: You know from experience in this region there s a huge amount of skepticism, not least about whether or not Prime Minister Sharon actually means what he says when he says it is time for the occupation to end and the settlements to be dismantled.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think Prime Minister Sharon is anxious to move forward toward peace. He knows that sooner or later a Palestinian state will have to be created to take into its borders, take into its heart, the Palestinian people and I m absolutely convinced of his sincerity in going in this direction. At the same time he is the Prime Minister of Israel, and he has to make sure that the Israeli people are secure and therefore terror and violence have to end. With the end of terror, the end of violence and Prime Minister Abbas has made strong statements about moving in this direction and is beginning to take action. With the end of terror and violence, I am confident that Israel is prepared to move forward at the same time and start to go down this road toward peace.

QUESTION: You know there is skepticism in the region, and some at home as well, about President Bush s staying power on this issue. What do you think?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, let me tell you this Peter. The President and I have spent many hours discussing this issue and at his instructions .

QUESTION: Are you his teacher in this regard?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don t have to teach the President, he knows what he wants to do. In this instance his guidance to me is very, very clear. We dealt with Saddam Hussein; we have what we were asking for in new leadership of the Palestinian people in the form of Prime Minister Abbas. Let s help him and let s take this moment of opportunity and I am committed. And when he says he s committed, he means it. He has demonstrated that in the course of his Administration and not just for a phone call or two, but to engage personally on a sustained basis, with the parties, and to ask the Arab leaders to do likewise in order to not miss this moment of opportunity. The very fact that he is coming here, I think, demonstrates his commitment to this process.

QUESTION: On the subject of your credibility and his, you re getting hammered on this question of weapons of mass destruction both at home and in the region. Do you think it hurts your credibility as you begin this extraordinary challenge?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, our credibility is intact. Everybody knows that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has used weapons of mass destruction in the past. The inspectors found weapons of mass destruction. The United States Armed Forces during Gulf War One found weapons of mass destruction and destroyed weapons of mass destruction. Iraq failed to account for what they had. They created a set of circumstances in 1998 where the inspectors had to leave and for five years we didn t know what Iraq was doing. And when resolution 1441 was passed unanimously by the United Nations last fall, every one of these members of the Security Council who voted for that resolution voted for a resolution that began with the knowledge that Iraq was in violation of its obligation and had weapons of mass destruction. Now we found some mobile labs, we re interviewing people, we have a lot of documents that have come into our possession and we ll be examining that. So there is no doubt in my mind that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. It was guilty of the charges brought against it

QUESTION: You and the British were both accused today of using faulty intelligence, at best?

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me tell you something, Peter. As I was getting ready for my 5 February presentations at the United Nations Security Council, I knew that the credibility of the United States was on the line. And I spent four days and four nights, maybe five days and five nights, it s all a blur, with the analysts themselves, with the Director of Central Intelligence, with the Deputy Director of Central Intelligence (inaudible) with people who are not from the CIA but are from my staff who could ask pointed, direct questions. The information we presented on the 5th of February was sound, it was multi-sourced, and I think in due course, as the inspections continue, with our exploitation teams being brought in, you will find that we presented a solid case, a case that is there and once there, will remain there. And all the skepticism that s being demonstrated now, the charges that are being levied now, in due course, will be found to be incorrect.

QUESTION: Thank you.

[End]

Released on June 2, 2003

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