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Powell Press Briefing Santiago, Chile


Press Briefing

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Hyatt Regency Hotel
Santiago, Chile
June 9, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Good evening ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Santiago, Chile. It is my first visit in almost twelve years. Last time here I was Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and I am privileged to be back now as Secretary of State. I was especially pleased to join my OAS colleagues here in Santiago for the 2003 General Assembly Meeting of the Organization of American States. I want to congratulate President Lagos and Foreign Minister Alvear for their gracious hospitality and for hosting what has turned out to be an outstanding meeting.

In the course of the day, in addition to my OAS activities, I had a very productive meeting with President Lagos and with Foreign Minister Alvear. We reaffirmed our common interest in reestablishing Security Council unity in New York, and expressed our mutual support for President Uribe s efforts in Colombia to bring peace and security to that troubled country which is under assault from narco-traffickers and terrorists.

In my meetings with President Lagos, we reviewed our work together in the Group of Friends for the OAS Secretary General in Venezuela and shared our satisfaction over the signing last Friday of the US Chile Free Trade Agreement.

Also, in the course of the day, I had the opportunity to meet with other friends in the region, including Brazilian Foreign Minister Amorim, Colombian Foreign Minister Barco, Peruvian Foreign Minister Wagner, Canadian Foreign Minister Bill Graham, and Bahamian Foreign Minister Mitchell. I am impressed by the depth of the determination of our hemispheric neighbors to strengthen democracy and prosperity throughout the Americas. As President Bush has said, this hemisphere is on the path of reform and our nations travel it together. We share a vision, a partnership of strong, equal and prosperous countries living and trading in freedom.

I commend the government of Chile for its leadership in promoting the virtuous circle of good governance, the rule of law, democratic values and sustained economic development. The idea of democratic opportunity also underlies President Bush s groundbreaking Millennium Challenge Account initiative. The Account will support dozens of countries that do govern justly, that do invest in their people, and which encourage economic freedom. Despite some tough times in the region, the level of commitment is very high to an agenda of good government, growth, and free trade. I heard that throughout all of the interventions that were made during the course of the day.

Indeed, one of our key objectives that flows from all of that is the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas by January 2005. The bilateral free trade agreement that the United States and Chile signed on June sixth is an important way station on the road toward hemispheric free trade.

We also reviewed the role that regional cooperation can play in promoting and defending democracy and how the OAS has responded to democratic crises in Haiti and Venezuela.

The Cuban regime s appalling repression of human rights and civil liberties ensures that it will have no place--such activities will have no place--in Cuba s future and we hope that future is not difficult to achieve on the horizon that we see in front of us. Sooner or later the people of Cuba should enjoy the kind of freedom and democracy that is sweeping the rest of the hemisphere.

Meeting the expectations of our citizens is what the Declaration of Santiago and Democracy and the Public Trust, the declaration that we passed today, is all about. We promised our people that democracy and free markets would work, and here in Chile we can see the truth of that promise.

We come here to say that democracy can deliver. Good governance can make the fruits of democracy and free markets available to all the people. The United States will continue to be an active and determined partner at the OAS and within the inter-American system to realize the hopes of all the people of the Americas for a better future.

Thank you very much and I would be pleased to take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you re going to Argentina tomorrow. Yesterday you said that the US is ready to help the new administration. Could you elaborate on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn t have any specific programs that I was referring to. I look forward to meeting President Kirchner and describing to him what happened here at the OAS meeting. I will be anxious to learn from President Kirchner about his programs and some of the steps he has already taken since he has been in office, but I m not going with any specific new initiatives or programs in mind.

QUESTION (as translated): Now that we know that it is probable that weapons of mass destruction will not be found in Iraq, do you still think that Chile acted disloyally on the United Nations Security Council when it did not support the conflict and how to you evaluate the relations? Is Chile only a commercial partner or is it also a strategic partner on the Council? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I would never use the term disloyal, nor did I use it at the time of the debate, nor did President Bush ever use such a term. We were disappointed that Chile was not able to support us when we worked on that second resolution and we expressed our disappointment to President Lagos and to Foreign Minister Alvear at the time.

Since then, though, we have come back together to achieve unity on the Security Council on the most recent resolution that lifted sanctions from Iraq and there will be other actions coming before the Security Council that I hope that Chile will agree with the United States on.

Chile is a democracy. It is free to make its own choices. In this case we would have preferred it had made a different choice. But we were disappointed, we take that disappointment and we move on. And the President and I spoke--not about the past, except for just a few moments. We spent most of our time today talking about the future and what we are going to do together in the future. And not just on trade issues, but on strategic issues that affect all aspects of our relations here in the hemisphere: security, democracy, trade, human rights, narco-trafficking all of the issues that we have a common interest in.

With respect to weapons of mass destruction, in Iraq, we are quite confident of the information that we have been presenting to the world in recent years. I am very confident of the presentation that I made on the fifth of February.

But it is not just what President Bush and his Administration have been saying, the issue of weapons of mass destruction is a well-documented issue, to the extent that UN inspectors have verified that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. They have used weapons of mass destruction in the past. I have no reason to believe they did not have weapons of mass destruction at the time that we took a decision to undertake military operations. We are still looking for elements of their programs and weapons from their program. The mobile biological labs that were recently discovered, in our judgment--and in the best judgment of our intelligence analysts--is that it has no other purpose but to serve as a facility to develop biological weapons.

The fact that we have not found any evidence that it actually had developed biological weapons in no means excuses it. It is something Iraq was not supposed to have, it did not declare it to the UN inspectors and they were in violation of their obligations. The Administration before ours--President Clinton and his Administration--held the same view with respect to Iraq. Many intelligence organizations outside of the United States have the same view.

And so we are sending in a more extensively equipped team of experts to continue to examine sites; to look at all of the documents that are now coming forward, that we have captured; and to interview a number of officials who are now in our custody. And I am quite confident that as we continue that work we will find more evidence of the presence of weapons of mass destruction and programs for weapons of mass destruction.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Israeli soldiers dismantled some outposts today and some Israeli civilians came out and tried to stop them. Do you have any concern that if there is more such resistance, it could be a serious impediment to the roadmap?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are strong views about this issue and I am pleased that Israel is now discharging the commitment it made to the international community at the Aqaba Summit last week, and I hope that in discharging this commitment they will be able to remove these unauthorized outposts in a peaceful way, without there being any violence whatsoever, although we know that there will be demonstrations.

There are those who object to this. But, I think what we discovered in our meetings last week--both in Sharm al Sheikh and Aqaba--is that it is time for both sides to move forward. We have a road map, which gives them a way to go forward. Both Prime Ministers--Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas--are committed to moving forward, and I think that both Prime Ministers realize that, what is the alternative? We cannot stay where we are, and now that the international community has rallied behind the roadmap, both parties have accepted the roadmap.

President Bush has indicated that this will be a very high priority for him and he will be committed and he has charged me and Dr. Rice to make it a high priority for our staffs. We have to keep moving forward, even in the presence of violence, of the terrible kind we saw over the weekend, on the part of Palestinian terrorists, and even in the presence of demonstrations. Will it be difficult for Prime Minister Sharon? Yes, but I think he realized that when he made the commitment to remove these unauthorized outposts.

JOURNALIST (as translated): Good afternoon, Mr. Powell.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon.

QUESTION: The United States has set January of 2005 as the date that the Free Trade Area of the Americas will become effective. Taking into consideration that the negotiations with Chile took close to ten years, although its economy was the soundest of the continent, isn t it overly optimistic to think that in less than two years the agreement becomes effective, taking into account that there are certain obstacles? I d like to know what you feel are those main obstacles. For example, Brazil and Mercosur have not shown themselves very positive with respect to this agreement.

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a very ambitious objective. It is less than, or just two years away now. But nevertheless, we want to leave that timeline out there. We want to leave that achievement date out there so that people don t start leaning back. Even though it took a long time to finish the Chile Free Trade Agreement with the United States, that does not mean we can t move faster. There are issues with Mercosur, as you say, but when I return to Washington later this week, I plan to sit down with Ambassador Zoellick, our Trade Negotiator and get his best assessment. He is hard at work on it. I will come from this conference reinvigorated in the determination of my colleagues here to try to see if it can be achieved by 2005. It will be difficult, but I do not think that there is any need now--any reason now--to call off that date and not try to achieve it.

QUESTION: Sir, your reports today regarding al-Qaeda in Iraq, the interrogations of two top senior al-Qaeda members, apparently al Qaida and Saddam Hussein s regime. How do you respond to these reports and do you have any new information that al Qaida was involved with Saddam Hussein s regime, and is it possible that these leaders were simply playing mind games with the interrogators?

SECRETARY POWELL: I cannot answer the last part of your question, and it is hard to answer the first part as well. There will be a lot of interrogations over a long period of time and it would be well not to focus on two particular individuals and occasional reports of what happened in those interrogations as being definitive. In my presentation on the fifth of February before the UN, I used some rather well defined examples of al- Zaqawi and other connections that traced back to al-Qaeda. And so I think that it s best at this time for us to continue these interrogations and not respond to occasional reports that come out of those interrogations. This is going to take a long time, and I don t want to make an assessment now as to what might or might not develop from the interrogations.

QUESTION: Good afternoon, Mr. Powell. The United States recently went to war against Saddam Hussein s regime that was classified by your own government as a tyrant. What stops the White House from attacking Fidel Castro s regime, which you yourself today classified as the only dictatorship existing in the hemisphere? Is a preventive attack justified? And also, I would appreciate your clarifying you spoke today of the role that the OAS should play in what you defined as a democratic transition in Cuba. What does that mean in concrete terms, considering that this country, Cuba, is suspended by the OAS?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have there are no plans to take preventive or pre-emptive action with respect to Cuba. But the fact of the matter is, Cuba is the remaining totalitarian dictatorship in this hemisphere. And even though Cuba is not - does not have membership in the OAS, there is no reason that the Community of Democracies of the OAS should not speak out strongly for the Cuban people.

The Cuban people are not allowed to speak out for themselves. The Cuban people who desire to express a political view or to organize politically are thrown in jail, and not just thrown in jail for a day or two. They are being given sentences for fifteen to twenty to twenty-five years. How could we, as a Community of Democracies who has seen what we have been able to achieve in this hemisphere over the last fifteen or twenty years fail to speak out with respect to what Castro is doing to his people? And I think it is the responsibility of every nation that believes in democracy--when faced with this kind of a lack of respect for democracy, lack of respect for human rights, unwillingness to allow people to decide what kind of leadership they should have--I think if we would call ourselves a Community of Democracies that it is our obligation to speak out, and that is what I did today, and that is what the United States will continue to do. And I hope that all members of the OAS, either collectively as the OAS, or in their individual capacities, will speak out against this kind of behavior in the year 2003 in the western hemisphere. We have come too far not to continue the journey and help the people of Cuba ultimately to achieve a democratic system where they can decide who their leaders will be through a free, open democratic process.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what did you make of the North Korean statement in which they go public on their intention to develop nuclear weapons? What effect will that have on the US strategy for dealing with North Korea?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they have said things like this before. They have said they have nuclear weapons and today they seem to be saying they would develop nuclear weapons. We believe that they have some small number of nuclear weapons. They certainly have the potential to have developed and produced some small number of nuclear weapons one or two. And they say that they are reprocessing, so they have been making these claims for some time.

They introduced a new element into their logic today when they said that they would also do this as a cost-saving measure to save money from their conventional forces. I ll have to reflect on that for a while before I give you a judgment as to what that means. It will not change our strategy. We believe that what North Korea is doing threatens the region. And we believe the region should come together and make sure North Korea knows that this will not be tolerated. And the region--along with the United States--has been coming together. Japan has spoken out strongly. South Korea has make it clear that they do not wish to see nuclear weapons in the peninsula. It is the policy of the Chinese government that the Korean peninsula should be de-nuclearized. Russia has joined in. Australia has joined in. The IAEA has spoken clearly on this. The issue is before the United Nations, and so we are all coming together to make it clear to North Korea that we will not accept a nuclearized peninsula.

This does not mean we are on our way to war. We are not. The President continues to believe that there is an opportunity for a diplomatic solution, a political solution, but it is a solution that must come in a multilateral forum. We cannot allow North Korea to dictate to us who they will speak to on this issue because too many nations are affected. They all have to be able to speak to this issue, and that is why we are continuing to press for a multilateral forum.

We started that with the Meeting of Three in Beijing not too long ago. Even though only three were in the meeting--the United States, North Korea, and China--South Korea and Japan were certainly represented by the United States in that meeting because we briefed them on everything that happened, everything that was going to happen before we went into the meeting, and everything that happened at the meeting was briefed to them after we came out. So we hope North Korea will come to the understanding that it must be multilateral and it must include Japan and South Korea at a minimum.

I hope North Korea will come to the realization that it is in their interest ultimately to include those other nations. Those nations come to help North Korea get rid of these terrible weapons and, at the same time, to help North Korea to deal with the problems that that country is having, that that society is experiencing. The multilateral forum will give North Korea an opportunity to engage with its neighbors and with the United States in a way that deals with this crisis and could benefit North Korea and the people of North Korea, especially, in the long term.

QUESTION (as translated): Mr. Secretary, the concept of hemispheric security that is under discussion currently in the OAS in the inter-American system, isn t this very similar to the concept that existed during the Cold War in the region, and can t this be confused with the concept of the security of the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the issue of hemispheric security in the year 2003 is quite different than the concept of hemispheric security that was embedded in the Rio Treaty or that existed for the period of the Cold War when we were worried about Communist intrusions into the region from the Soviet Union or from its agents, principally Cuba. Now security has a new meaning. The global war on terrorism is the principal security threat. Narco-trafficking, criminal activities generated by narco-trafficking, those are the security threats we face, and these are the security threats we have to come together and deal with. One can ask, Well, don t those exist in singular countries and why does the whole Organization of American States have to come together? And the answer to that is that even though the activities may take place in one country or might be indigenous, it affects other countries. It spills over if it deals with narco-trafficking. Terrorism is a threat to every country in the region and therefore we should deal with it on a regional basis. So it is not just US national security that we are talking about--dealing with and talking about here it is the security of the hemisphere. And it is security that pulls us together to deal with these new kinds of threats. Narco-trafficking not that new a threat but we can deal with it on a better, a more informed, and a more effective basis if we see it as a regional problem. And similarly with the global war on terrorism, which I think affects each and every nation in the hemisphere.

Thank you. [End]

Released on June 10, 2003

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