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Powell Interview on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow

Interview on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC June 8, 2003

MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, let's begin with developments today in the Middle East. The Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are assuming responsibility for shooting four Israeli soldiers today. Do you expect the Palestinian Authority to go ahead and arrest those responsible?

SECRETARY POWELL: If they can find them, I am sure they would arrest them. What we have to do now is to make sure we don't allow this tragic, terrible incident to derail the momentum of the roadmap that got started at the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba summits last week.

This is the time when both leaders have to do everything they can, Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas, everything they can to move forward. Prime Minister Abbas has condemned the armed Intifada, says it has to come to an end. He has condemned this kind of activity. Now we have to give him the capacity and the capability to deal with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Brigades. And I am persuaded that he is committed to doing that.

MR. SNOW: You're saying we've got to give him the means.

SECRETARY POWELL: He needs to have his police forces rebuilt. He needs communications. He needs vehicles. He needs a lot.

MR. SNOW: And we will help him do that?

SECRETARY POWELL: We will be helping him, and other nations will be helping him.

MR. SNOW: Is it true that we have been providing some money to buy back weapons of terrorist groups within the West Bank and Gaza?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer that, Tony. I'd have to leave that to other agencies of government who handle such matters.

MR. SNOW: All right. Do you not see the fine hand of Yasser Arafat behind what happened today?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't stay that, but I can say that Yasser Arafat has to play a more positive role than he's been playing in recent days or the last couple years. He is still the President of the Palestinian Authority -- I recognize that -- and he has a place within the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people. He now has to start speaking out for peace as well.

We do not find him a useful interlocutor. That is why we haven't dealt with him over the past year or so. And I hope that more nations around the world will bring pressure to bear on Yasser Arafat so that he helps Prime Minister Abbas develop the capability to deal with terrorism, and doesn't just sit on the sidelines hoping that Abbas fails.

MR. SNOW: On the other hand, you have specifically requested that our European allies not talk to him. A couple of weeks ago, you were sitting side by side with Dominique de Villepin, the French Foreign Minister, who immediately, after you said that, said, well, I'm going and I'm going to talk to Yasser Arafat.

What was your reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: The European nations have a different view of this. They believe that they have a need to speak to Mr. Arafat. The one thing I know is that they are all delivering a tough message to Arafat that he has to support Prime Minister Abbas and to not be a spoiler. But at the same time, every time they go there, Arafat appears on television all over the world, and it seems to me that is not consistent with our efforts to build up Prime Minister Abbas.

MR. SNOW: Isn't it really the case that we've got a power struggle now between Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat; they may be part of the same government, but we are in a period of transition right now and Yasser Arafat is pitted against his former deputy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have made our choice. We are going to be supporting Prime Minister Abbas. We are going to do everything we can to help him and his cabinet develop the capability to deal with terrorism in Gaza and in the West Bank. And we have to move in this direction and we are hoping that Israel will also do everything they can to help Prime Minister Abbas by taking some of the steps that Prime Minister Sharon announced the other day in order to make it easier for Prime Minister Abbas to take the difficult steps he has to take. Both sides have obligations and both sides have to take steps.

MR. SNOW: In other words, the Israelis have to help Mahmoud Abbas make the argument that he can deliver in ways that Yasser Arafat could not, including shutting down settlements that have been built since Ariel Sharon took office in March of 2001?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, yes. You heard Prime Minister Sharon say that he would go after the illegal outposts. Other settlements will be part of the roadmap process as we go forward. The whole settlement issue is going to be a very, very difficult one, and both sides will have to negotiate how that comes about, and the United States is going to play an important role in that.

MR. SNOW: You've talked about other nations playing a constructive role with Yasser Arafat. One would presume that would include the Arab neighbors.

SECRETARY POWELL: Especially the Arab neighbors. What we have said to them is that they have to make sure that all of their actions support Prime Minister Abbas. They have to make sure -- and they said this in the statement that they released -- that they would no longer be providing any support to terrorist organizations or any organizations that do not support the peace process.

MR. SNOW: But do they recognize that Hamas is a terrorist group, that Hezbollah is a terrorist group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are terrorist groups? Because, in the past, they have not.

SECRETARY POWELL: They do understand that these organizations have terrorist elements to them. Now, this is their characterization, not mine. And what they have committed to is no longer providing support to any organization that supports terrorist activity. So we will watch their activities in the future and see what actions they take to put the truth to their statement.

MR. SNOW: The President wants there to be an agreement by the year 2005. That's going to require his staying involved, is it not?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President knows that. The President intends to stay involved and he has charged Dr. Rice and I to give this our highest priority.

MR. SNOW: Do you expect to have another meeting in which the President will be joined again by the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority anytime soon?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I wouldn't say anytime soon, but surely the President -- you can expect him to be meeting with both of the leaders individually, and I'm sure there will be an opportunity for the three of them to meet again at some time in the future.

The President has made it clear that this is a top priority for him, and the roadmap is the way forward. We're putting Ambassador Wolf on the ground in the next week or so with people to help monitor the situation between the two sides, help them begin talking to one another in a more effective way to rebuild confidence and trust between the two sides. And the White House and the State Department and all the other departments in the Administration are absolutely knitted up behind this effort.

MR. SNOW: And you think it's possible to have everything done by 2005?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's our goal, and it is possible if we get progress on the roadmap. But what we have to do is stop terrorism. And Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon both have to have that as their uppermost and firstmost goal, to stop terrorism. We cannot, as the President has said, put Israel's security at risk. And it is difficult for Israel to make the difficult choices that it is expected to make under the roadmap if it is constantly being assaulted by terrorists. Prime Minister Sharon has to protect his people. He said that in his statement.

And so we all have to work together to get this terrorism under control, but at the same time not let terrorism stop us from moving forward. It is a difficult situation. But if it was an easy situation it would have been solved many, many years ago.

MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, the controversy of the week in Washington has to deal with weapons of mass destruction. First I want to play a little clip of your testimony in February before the United States Security Council regarding weapons of mass destruction possessed by Saddam Hussein:

"There can be no doubt that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more. And he has the ability to dispense these lethal poisons and diseases in ways that can cause massive death and destruction Our conservative estimate is that Iraq today has a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical weapons agent We have no indication that Saddam Hussein has ever abandoned his nuclear weapons program."

Do you still stand by each of those statements?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. I spent -- not only have I been studying this for many, many years, but as I prepared that statement I worked very closely with the Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet --

MR. SNOW: Who was sitting right behind you.

SECRETARY POWELL: He was sitting right behind me. That statement was vetted thoroughly by all of the analysts who are responsible for this account. We spent four days and nights out at the CIA making sure that whatever I said was supported by our intelligence holdings, because it wasn't the President's credibility and my credibility on the line; it was the credibility of the United States of America. And we are sure of what we said because he does have this kind of capability.

Now, suddenly this week there's a big firestorm about, well, we haven't found anything yet. Well, we are going to intensify our search. In my statement, I also said they are masters of deception and hiding. So we are sending in an Iraqi survey group of 1,300 people who will be looking in all the places. They will be exploiting all the documents. They will be interviewing people. And I would put before you Exhibit A, the mobile biological labs that we have found. People are saying, "Well, are they truly mobile biological labs?" Yes, they are. And the DCI, George Tenet, Director of Central Intelligence, stands behind that assessment.

And my best justification for the fact that they are what we said they were, biological labs -- as if they were not biological labs, I can assure you, the very next morning the Iraqis would have pulled them out and presented them to UNMOVIC and presented them to the whole international press corps to demonstrate what they were if they weren't that.

MR. SNOW: So you have no doubt that there were weapons before the war. How about now?

SECRETARY POWELL: There can be no question there were weapons before the war. They have had weapons throughout their history. They have used chemical weapons. They have admitted that they had biological weapons. And they never accounted for all that they had or what they might or might not have done with it. And it is the considered judgment not only of this Administration, it was the judgment of President Clinton's administration, it's the judgment of a number of nations around the world, that they had these weapons. And when we passed Resolution 1441 unanimously, it was the unanimous judgment of the Security Council that Iraq was in violation of its obligations.

Now we have to do the intensive search that is ahead of us, and the Iraqi survey group will be doing that. And I'm sure more evidence and more proof will come forward as we go down this road.

MR. SNOW: There have been allegations in this town that the books were cooked. In fact, one of your former aides, Mr. Thielman, is quoted as saying that he does not believe that the evidence was fitting. Let's pull up his quote, if we can, just to see if -- never mind, we don't have it with us so we're not going to pull up that quote.

In any event, there have been arguments that the intelligence was bogus and that, specifically, the Vice President, by going over to the CIA, was, in fact, inflicting political pressure on people to alter and to doctor their assessments. True or false?

SECRETARY POWELL: False. I mean, the Vice President, by going over to the CIA and spending a lot of time there, was delving in, as I know Dick Cheney does -- I've worked with him for many years. He delves into a subject. He wants to get to the bottom. He wants to get to the truth.

And I have heard no suggestion that he went over there and said, "This is the answer I want." He went over there to learn. I can tell you stories from the Gulf War back in 1991, the first Gulf War, when he was my boss, the Secretary of Defense, and I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He did the same thing with me. He would bore in and bore in on our military plans and what we were doing. It's his style to make sure that he has all the information available to us in his mind so he knows what he's talking about. That isn't politicizing. That's doing a good job.

MR. SNOW: On Capitol Hill, a number of people have said throughout that they were promised intelligence that would make it beyond a shadow of a doubt clear to them that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction, and they're saying that they never got that.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, please. They were briefed consistently and repeatedly throughout last year. George Tenet was up testifying. John McLaughlin went up there repeatedly. We have presented information. We have put out classified documents that the Central Intelligence Agency has. We have given briefings up on the Hill. I presume Congress knew what it was doing when it passed the resolution supporting the President last fall, and so if Congress needs more information now to reaffirm their judgment of last year, the Administration stands ready to provide all the information that we have.

MR. SNOW: Have you seen the Defense Intelligence Agency report that assessed --

SECRETARY POWELL: I've seen the summary that has made all the news.

MR. SNOW: The summary that has made the news indicates that as of September the DIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, was unable to pinpoint production sources for weapons of mass destruction and, furthermore, was unable to find any battlefield deployments. True?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, not true. The sentence that has gotten all of the attention in this two-page unclassified summary talked about not having the evidence of current facilities and current stockpiling. The very next sentence says that it had information that weapons had been dispersed to units, chemical weapons had been dispersed to units. So there was a question as to whether or not you're talking about chemical weapons that are being dispersed or the production facility, and there is a judgment call there.

But the considered judgment and the official judgment of the Director of Central Intelligence, who is the one responsible for gathering all this information and making a judgment, is that they had weapons of mass destruction of the kind that we had described: nuclear, nuclear capability in the form of individuals with the knowledge and the commitment on the part of Saddam Hussein to continue moving toward a nuclear capability even though he didn't -- he wasn't close to one at the time, we don't believe; chemical weapons and biological facilities of the kind we have demonstrated with this lab.

MR. SNOW: You've talked about making available to Congress information. What about to the American public? When is the public going to see more of the kind of intelligence that led you and other senior White House officials to believe that Saddam had --

SECRETARY POWELL: Tony, I think we've put out a lot, and my presentation on the 5th of February was unclassified, on television live around the country and the world. I think the American people got a good, solid assessment. I boiled down what could have been a presentation of many, many hours and days to one hour and roughly 20 minutes, where I presented the best information we had on weapons of mass destruction, on the terrorist activities of this regime and the human rights abuses of this regime. And I stand by that presentation and there is much more information that is available.

And I'm sure that as the intelligence community feels that it is appropriate to declassify this information, it will be made available to the public. I don't think the public is as upset about all this, or as concerned about this, as is the media, which has had a feeding frenzy for the last week.

MR. SNOW: Iran. A big problem?

SECRETARY POWELL: Beg your pardon?

MR. SNOW: Iran.

SECRETARY POWELL: Iran is a problem. It continues to support terrorism. It continues to develop, we believe, the capability to produce nuclear weapons, and this is troublesome. But there is a lot of churching taking place inside of Iran, and a very young population that realizes that its political and religious leaders are not pointing it in the right direction toward a better future.

And I hope that if we keep making the case to the Iranian people that we are not your enemy, that there is a better life awaiting you if you will abandon terrorism, abandon weapons of mass destruction development, and put pressure on your political leaders and your religious leaders to allow more innovation within the Iranian society, within the Iranian economy, to start changing the policies of the past, I hope the political and religious leaders will begin to respond to this kind of pressure.

MR. SNOW: All right. Secretary of State Colin Powell, I know you've got a lot of globe-trotting to do. Thanks for joining us, and good luck.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tony.

[End]

Released on June 8, 2003

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