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Powell's Press Availability with Italian FM

Joint Press Availability

Secretary Colin L. Powell and Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini Following Their Meeting at the Villa Doria Pamphili Rome, Italy June 2, 2003

FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI: (as translated from Italian) Good morning. First of all, I would like to give a warm thanks to my friend and colleague Secretary of State Colin Powell, who is in Rome for this meeting, confirming once again the exceptional quality of the relationship between the United States and Italy, the friendship and mutual regard, even on a personal level, that has developed between us and of which I am particularly happy.

Today s meeting was an occasion to take stock of the most important issues concerning transatlantic relations, also in view of Italy s upcoming EU presidency that begins on July 1. Secretary of State Powell and I share exactly the same views on the need to work together on proliferation, on the fight against proliferation, on the all-out fight against terrorism, which constitutes the principal threat for democracies; on the importance of strengthening the historic alliance the Atlantic alliance that for 50 years has been the pillar of freedom and democracy.

And to do this, we Europeans have a duty to work together with our American friends, to strengthen our military capabilities in close connection with NATO.

We also have a shared commitment on the Middle East. With the Italian government s strong and deeply held gratitude to President Bush and Secretary of State Powell for their strong commitment towards a stable and long-lasting peaceful solution for the entire region, I informed Secretary Powell of my upcoming plans to visit some of my foreign minister colleagues in Arab countries, such as Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia. We exchanged our points of view on this issue as well.

Finally, we are in complete agreement on Iraq. Italy has begun to play a concrete role in the area, by providing support to coalition forces in order to bring about stability and a return to normality, for the obvious good of the Iraqi people.

We also spoke about issues which are of common interest, such as the prospect of an EU regulation that we hope will come about by mid-July on the delicate issue of biotechnology -- an issue that Europe has every interest in resolving through these regulations -- that I hope will be approved quickly and without further modifications. These were the main issues of our meeting, and for which I once again thank Colin. I now turn the floor over to him.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Franco, for your warm welcome. It s a great pleasure for me to be back in Rome, and I deeply appreciate your seeing me on a holiday, and I offer you congratulations on your holiday.

As the Minister said, we had a very frank and open discussion as befits two friends who are together on so many issues. We reaffirmed our determination to do everything possible to strengthen the transatlantic relationship that exists between North America and Europe. There have been some problems in recent months, and I m pleased that as time passes people are coming back together in Europe, and between Europe and the United States, on the need to help the people of Iraq now, not fight old battles, but to come together as we did in UN Resolution 1483 to help the people of Iraq. And I think there has been considerable progress over the last two weeks in healing the fissures of the past, closing those fissures.

We ve had no better friend in recent months than Italy, as Italy has stood side by side with the United States in Afghanistan, at the UN in helping us make the case to our colleagues at the UN. I cannot tell you how much it has meant to President Bush, to me and to all Americans to have President [correction: Prime Minister] Berlusconi s strong support, and the strong support of the Italian government and people for what needed to be done to bring a dictator to justice, to deal with a regime that had totally ignored all UN resolutions for many years, in keeping and developing weapons of mass destruction. That dictator is now gone as a result of the coalition of the willing, and now the challenge before us is to help the Iraqi people, and we know that Italy will play an important and powerful role in that effort.

We spent time talking about the European Presidency that Italy will assume in July. I look forward to working with Minister Frattini on an almost daily basis as we push forward our agenda, whether it s on the subject of counter-terrorism or counter-proliferation efforts, or whether it has to do with the Middle East peace process.

As you know, the European Union Presidency is part of the Quartet that works on Middle East issues, and I look forward to working more closely with Franco as we take advantage of this window of opportunity that is before us, as a result of the new Prime Minister in the Palestinian Authority, and as a result of the meetings that are going to be held over the next 48 hours between President Bush and Arab leaders tomorrow in Sharm el-Sheikh, and on the following day with Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon in Aqaba.

So this is a time of challenge. It s also a time of great opportunity an opportunity to move forward in finding a peaceful solution to the crisis in the Middle East; an opportunity to heal any divisions that might remain or might still be of trouble to people with respect to the recent disagreements we had over Iraq; a time for the international community to come together and speak strongly about the need to end terror, the need to deal with proliferation.

And so in times of challenge, there are also opportunities, opportunities to move the international agenda forward toward peace and security and stability. And in that effort, the United States looks forward to working with one of its closest and best friends in the international community, Italy. And I look forward to working with Minister Frattini in this regard. Thank you.

QUESTION: Matthew Lee, from AFP. Mr. Secretary, on the Middle East, in the meetings coming up, there seem to be some conflicting statements coming out from the Israelis and Palestinians about what may emerge from the Aqaba summit in terms of a joint statement. Can you give us an update on how Assistant Secretary Burns and Mr. Abrams are doing over there in the process of getting a statement together and if you are still hopeful that you will be able to achieve one?

SECRETARY POWELL: I talked to Assistant Secretary Burns last night. He is in the region talking to all the parties and we expect that positive statements will be forthcoming but, you know, statement writing always goes down to the last minute, as people try to present one position or another. But the report that he gave to me last night was an encouraging one, and we will see what finally happens really after the President has had a chance to speak to the Arab leaders in Sharm el-Sheikh and then, to speak to Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas in Aqaba. So I m still optimistic, and Assistant Secretary Burns who, as you say, is accompanied by National Security Senior Director Elliot Abrams, they re hard at work, and they are encouraged by what they have been able to achieve so far.

QUESTION: Arshad Mohammed of Reuters. Mr. Secretary, do you regard Prime Minister Sharon s use of the term occupation last week as perhaps an effort to prepare the Israeli public for concessions that the Israeli government might make in the peace process? And secondly, there are some reports out of Jerusalem suggesting that the Israeli government plans to announce after the Aqaba summit that it s willing to dismantle some settlement outposts. Have they given you any reason to believe that they will, in fact, do that?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to what Mr. Sharon intended by the use of the word occupation, I will let Mr. Sharon interpret his remarks. I have to take note of the fact, though, that this is the first time we have heard him refer to an occupation of some kind, whether it s just the presence of Israeli forces in Palestinian cities, or whether it s the occupation of territory, and I will let the Prime Minister interpret his own remarks. But I think it shows that he recognizes that whichever interpretation you put on it, the occupation of particular cities or territory, it s a situation that is unsustainable over time. It s a situation that we all should be working on to resolve, to fix, and in that regard, I think what he said was a positive statement, and we will be spending more time with the Prime Minister discussing what he said and what he plans to do. With respect to the outposts, I think it s well understood that the outposts are not there properly and will have to be removed, and I m sure that will also be an item of discussion in Aqaba.

QUESTION: (as translated from Italian) The United States government justified the war in Iraq with a need to prevent the use of chemical and biological weapons of destruction, of which so far there is no proof. Did the U.S. government have the wrong information or have they simply not been found yet?

SECRETARY POWELL: There were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. It wasn t a figment of anyone s imagination. Iraq used these weapons against Iran in the late 80s. Iraq used such weapons against its own people in the late 80s. When the Gulf War was over in 1991, we found such weapons and destroyed some of them. Inspectors were in Iraq for years and were forced to leave Iraq in 1998 without getting the answers that were needed with respect to what weapons remained, where they were and what programs were still underway.

So there is no question, there is no debate here. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and they tossed out, caused the inspectors to have to leave, therefore, tossed out the inspectors in 1998. And for the years that followed, until the fall of 2002, Iraq simply ignored the demands of the international community to allow the inspectors back in and resolve this issue. In the fall of 2002, in the UN Resolution 1441, every member of the Security Council, all fifteen, unanimously agreed to a resolution that started out with the proposition that Iraq was in material breach of its obligations, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt in my mind as I went through the intelligence, and as I prepared myself for the briefing that I gave to the Security Council on the 5th of February, that the evidence was overwhelming, that they had continued to develop these programs.

Iraq convicted itself when Iraq would not provide answers demanded by the international community. Iraq further placed itself in material breach when it did not cooperate fully with the inspectors in a way that the inspectors could do their job. And under the terms of 1441, it was perfectly appropriate, it was the right thing to do, for a coalition of the willing, even if the entire UN Security Council did not wish to join in the effort, but for a coalition of the willing to take the bold political step to decide that this regime had to be changed because it refused to comply with the will of the international community.

We are sending in the most extensive regime, we are putting in place the most extensive regime imaginable, to look at all of the sites, to exploit all of the documents that have come into our possession since the war, and to interview people who are now available, who were not made for interview by the Iraqis previously.

We have already discovered mobile biological factories of the kind that I described to the Security Council on the 5th of February. We have now found them. There is no question in our mind that that s what their purpose was. Nobody has come up with an alternate purpose that makes sense.

And so I think the case is clear, the case is made, the case has been made by the international coalition, it was previously made by the inspectors, and Iraq has previously admitted to having these weapons of mass destruction and refused to tell the international community their current status, thus leading to Resolution 1441 and subsequently leading to Operation Iraqi Freedom.

And now, the Iraqi people are free, they re liberated, they re no longer living under a regime that would lie to the international community or deny its activities to the international community. And what we have to do now is not get trapped in the longwinded debates about what was known and not known, and these kinds of recriminations, but move on and help the Iraqi people build a stable society, a democratic nation where all the people are represented in government. And what we don t have to worry about is any future regime in Iraq, any future government in Iraq developing weapons of mass destruction or terrorizing its own people or supporting terrorism against other people in the region.

QUESTION: (as translated from Italian) I would like to ask Minister Frattini if Secretary of State Powell entrusted you personally or President Berlusconi with a message for your upcoming trips to the Middle East?

FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI: Evidently, we exchanged our points of view, and once again I think we are in complete agreement over the importance of giving moderate Arab countries a sign of solidarity and friendship, and to give to other countries like Syria a strong message in order to encourage and stimulate them to be more positively involved in the efforts of the international community, and therefore to deny any support to extremist factions, to become part of a stronger dialogue so that the entire region will be part of a comprehensive and stable peace plan.

Secretary Powell, once again, completely agreed with these ideas, and so the meetings that I will have will be in agreement with what the United States is doing, and with what we Europeans, and in particular Italy, intend to do. [End]

Released on June 2, 2003

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