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Colin Powell IV by The Associated Press June 12th

Interview by The Associated Press

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
June 12, 2003
(3:00 p.m. EDT)

QUESTION: The trip to Jordan, the stop in Jordan, any chance you’ll go on to Israel and talk to the Palestinians?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have some flexibility in my schedule, Barry. But I haven’t made any decisions yet. As you know, I am leaving Monday to go to Cambodia for the ASEAN Regional Forum, and then I will continue around to Dhaka in Bangladesh, and then on to Jordan. But there is some flexibility in my calendar, and I will decide what I do when we get closer to the moment.

QUESTION: Okay, would you describe -- because people freely write about, I did today -- the tattered road map?

I don’t know why I did that, but they write about the road map being jeopardized. Is the road map in trouble by your --

SECRETARY POWELL: The road map is intact. The road map remains the way forward to a peace deal between the Palestinians and Israelis. It lays out the steps both sides have to take. Even in the presence of the violence that we have seen over the last couple of days, both leaders -- Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas -- remain committed to moving forward. I have spoken to both of them just within the last 30 minutes, and so we are continuing to drive on. We have to drive through this surge of violence.

I have been speaking to leaders all during the course of the day, Foreign Ministers in the Arab world, some Foreign Ministers in Europe and elsewhere, for all of us get together and apply pressure to Hamas, and to make sure that Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the other organizations responsible for this kind of terror realize that they will not prevail, that we are going to keep moving toward peace, and that it is important for every leader who is interested in peace to convey that same message to them.

The problem right now is these terrorist organizations who are trying to keep the Palestinian people from achieving their desire, which is a state of their own.

QUESTION: Abbas -- I asked Richard [Boucher] today and he kept a little distance from it -- Abbas is described as the target of these militants. They want to make life difficult for him. At the same time, the Israelis are asking him to do more, and polls show he doesn’t have a lot of support in the first place.

Do you think he can magically somehow take on the militants and also have support?

SECRETARY POWELL: I believe that he can do more. He said he would do more. He has done quite a bit already. I mean, this was the Prime Minister of the Palestinian people who got up there and said publicly before the world that the armed intifada must end.

QUESTION: Right.

SECRETARY POWELL: But he has limited capability. We want him to use that limited capability as effectively as he can. We want to build up his capability so he can do more, but we have got to get moving. We have got to move faster. He has to move faster, and he and I talked about that in the course of our conversation this afternoon. I expect him to be taking more aggressive steps in the near future to deal with this.

But as you know, he does have political problems. One of the problems that we believe he has is that some of the forces in the Palestinian Authority are not under -- some of the forces are not under his control. So we want to bring pressure to bear on President Arafat, as well, to support Prime Minister Abbas in his efforts to build up the capacity of the Palestinian forces to deal with terrorist activity in Gaza, initially, and then in the occupied territories. So we want to continue -- we are going to continue to enhance his ability to use the capability that he does have and providing more him capability.

QUESTION: If you can go to Iraq for a minute. The case you made at the UN centered around actual weapons, actual chemicals that Iraq was thought to have. And now it seems in defending the military action in Iraq, the emphasis is on a weapons programs, why that rhetorical shift?

SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, if you go back and read my transcript of my presentation, you will see that I spoke to all elements. I spoke to the presence of weapons. I also spoke to gaps in knowledge, what previous inspections said they might have and did have and what happened to it. Where is it now? And we also talked about programs, so we were interested in all aspects of it.

The biological weapons labs that we believe strongly are biological weapons labs, we didn't find any biological weapons with those labs. But should that give us any comfort? Not at all. Those were labs that could produce biological weapons whenever Saddam Hussein might have wanted to have a biological weapons inventory.

So I think you have to look at both, the weapons themselves and the exploitation efforts that we have underway are going continue. And we are going to look at every part of that country, every bunker that we can get into, every bunker we find. And we are going to examine all of the documents. And we are going to conduct interviews that will lead us, not only, we believe, to weapons that still exist, but to the programs themselves, we want to find and rip up weapons and programs, and want to make sure we know what intelligence exists within Iraqi society. There are nuclear scientists there.

Saddam Hussein kept them together so that if the opportunity presented itself, he could recreate a nuclear program. We want to make sure those scientists are no longer kept together in a cell, a cell of scientists working together, but that they go on and find other things to do with the information they have inside of their head and with their intelligence.

QUESTION: But it doesn't seem that anyone wants to actually say right now that they are confident there were actual weapons in Iraq.

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe there were weapons in Iraq. We have solid judgment of the intelligence community behind us. And we believe in due course, when the exploitation is completed -- by exploitation I mean sending in the large team that is prepared to go in now, some 1,300 people -- when their work is done, the world will see what we were talking about.

QUESTION: The credibility cliché that somehow credibility has been damaged, U.S. credibility?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think so. I think our credibility is intact. I think that we will be able to demonstrate convincingly through the mobile labs, through documentation, through interviews, through what we find, that we knew what we were speaking about.

But let's go back a little further. It is not just the United States that made a claim on the 5th of February, when I made my presentation. Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, used weapons of mass destruction. It was documented over a period of many years.

At the end of the first Gulf War in '91, we found weapons of mass destruction and destroyed those we found. As late as 1998, there was no question in anyone's mind. President Clinton spoke out forcefully. His intelligence leaders, his Director of Central Intelligence said that there were weapons. Other intelligence organizations in other countries have said so, so this isn't a figment of somebody's imagination.

This isn't something that was overblown or made up in the basement of the CIA late one night. These were real weapons and real programs that Saddam Hussein refused to come forward and explain to the world. And if he didn't have weapons of mass destruction, it would have been an easy thing for him to make an honest declaration after 1441 resolution was passed. And it would have been easy for him to come forward and say, "Here, go anywhere, any time, any place, I'll provide anything you want” as opposed to continuing these deception efforts.

If he didn't have weapons of mass destruction or the capability to produce them, on the 6th of February, you tell me why, after watching me make this presentation and go on at some length about this van that we had never seen, but we believe existed, why didn't he come out the next day, pull that thing out in front of the whole world press corps and say, "Powell doesn't know what he is talking about. Here it is and we use it to make hydrogen gas for birthday balloons or weather balloons.” He didn't do that. He kept it hidden. He brought back -- he brought out all kinds of other vans to try to deceive us, but this van was kept hidden.

Why? Do you want to give Saddam Hussein the benefit of the doubt? Well, we didn't, and now we don't have to worry about it anymore. We don't have to worry about those weapons of mass destruction because Iraq has been liberated and the Iraqi people are free.

QUESTION: Well, there was that statement from Mr. Chalabi, a day or so ago, where he said that Saddam Hussein is actually still alive and somewhere in Iraq. Do you believe that to be the case?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no idea whether he is alive or dead. And if Mr. Chalabi knows that he is alive and knows where he is, I suggest that Mr. Chalabi tell us about it.

QUESTION: He says he has shared information along this vein with the United States.

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't substantiate his claims. He makes new ones every year, every day.

QUESTION: North Korea, they seem to be -- well, they are -- more open about their intentions, and the U.S. has meetings with them. We were told there wasn't -- there was a report of a recent meeting -- evidently, it isn't so.

But are you getting more alarmed about this? And I know what you want. You want multilateral talks with them. But what are we doing lately to try to stop this menacing situation?

SECRETARY POWELL: These are the same claims they have been making. They change their claim a little bit with each passing day. Some days they say they have reprocessed all of the rods; other days they say they are on the way to doing it; some days they say they have nuclear weapons; other days they say they are developing them. We accept them at their word, as they gave that word to us, to Assistant Secretary Kelly in Beijing not too long ago, that they have nuclear weapons.

And by so admitting it, if they do have nuclear weapons, they now bring down the disdain of the entire international community and all of their neighbors. And so they may enjoy the prospect of being a nuclear holding nation but it is not going to do them any good. We will not be frightened into taking actions that we believe are inappropriate. And I think the North Koreans should be taking a look around and noticing that the Japanese are stiffening their positions with respect to North Korea.

The South Korean, the Chinese, the Japanese, the Australians, the United States, Russia, all of us are saying the same thing. We do not want nuclear weapons on the Korean Peninsula and North Korea has not found a friend or anybody willing to support its position.

And so, we will continue to communicate to the world that the United States seeks a diplomatic solution, a political solution, and we feel confident one can be found. But it has to be found in a multilateral forum with the principal neighbors of North Korea and the United States participating in that forum, not for the purpose of ganging up on North Korea, but for the purpose of bringing everybody into the room who has an equity in this problem.

North Korea's nukes are more of a direct threat to Japan, South Korea, China, Russia and neighbors in the region than they are to the United States of America, and all of us demand that this problem be solved. I believe it can be solved in a peaceful way. They changed their argument in recent days to say that another reason for having a nuclear deterrent is, one, to deter us; but, two, as a way of cutting their conventional forces and saving money. Well, that is an interesting new argument, and I hope they do cut their forces because that is also a very destabilizing factor.

QUESTION: It sounds a little bit like the Iranian argument. I got the impression that they needed -- you know we had a briefing yesterday, and we were told that -- 200 years of fuel capacity. That it's nonsense that any nuclear -- but I also got the --

SECRETARY POWELL: Do you mean Iran?

QUESTION: Iran. But I got the impression that maybe Russia is beginning to come the U.S.'s way on this.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have been in discussions with the Russians about the Iranian nuclear power programs, and we expressed our concerns to the Russians. I have since, in my recent conversations with Russian officials, and President Bush's conversations with President Putin, that Russia now shares our concern. We were all waiting for the IAEA to provide an assessment next week, and after that we will be in contact with our friends and allies, especially, with the Russians, to see what other steps might be appropriate.

QUESTION: But it's not going to the Security Council? Well, the expectation is that it would.

SECRETARY POWELL: I have heard of lots of different expectations about this. But our position right now is we are not going to prejudge what we might or might not do. Let's wait and see what the IAEA says, and then we will make an assessment of what they say, consult with our friends who have an interest in this matter, and then make a judgment of what our next step should be.

QUESTION: Secretary Rumsfeld today in Brussels said that the United States is willing to (inaudible) the process of funding for a new NATO Headquarters building if Belgium does not rescind its law of allowing prosecution for war crimes, that someone is trying to pursue such a prosecution against General Franks.

Do you think that that would be a wise move given the tensions already that had existed in NATO over this war in Iraq, and the fact that the whole discussion of old and new Europe seemed to have found its way back on to the screen, as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, with respect to the building, I am not sure of the funding status of the building. But let me say that what Secretary Rumsfeld was saying is something that I have also said. And that is if Belgium uses this law that they have in their books to put at risk American officials, then it makes it difficult for us to travel freely to Belgium without having some concern about being, shall we say, detained, or, in some way, approached by Belgium authorities about the charges leveled against us. It is not only General Franks; it is yours truly.

QUESTION: Yes --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I --

QUESTION: You took a chance.

SECRETARY POWELL: In fact, I was before Franks.

QUESTION: And we went there.

SECRETARY POWELL: And we went there and took a chance.

QUESTION: Okay.

SECRETARY POWELL: But the fact of the matter is the Belgium Government knows that this is a problem, and we are not threatening the Belgium Government. We are just saying to them, to our Belgian friends, that this is the problem. And we hope you can find a solution to it because it does it make it a little awkward for senior American officials to travel to Brussels or other places in Belgium while there is a potential legal risk or legal liability hanging over our head. So I hope the Belgium Government will find a way to deal with this fact.

QUESTION: Can I have one quick one. You pretty well described what you want from Abbas. What do you want from Sharon -- you say you talked to him today? Did you make any reinforce or make new requests?

SECRETARY POWELL: We want everybody to fulfill the commitments they made at the summit at Aqaba. Restraint on the part of both parties, the steps forward with respect to security, the denouncing of terrorism, the taking down of outposts, which Mr. Sharon started to do.

QUESTION: Started to do, yes.

SECRETARY POWELL: So the Israelis side has started to take some steps. I know the Palestinian side is trying to take some steps now, and I hope they will be able to take those steps aggressively and promptly. But I didn't put down any new demands because everybody knows what is expected.

QUESTION: Regarding Africa -- and you're going to see President Museveni this afternoon. How is the anti-terror campaign going when it comes to these African nations? I mean, theoretically, that entire continent could become one gigantic hiding place, for lack of a better term, for wanted terror operatives.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't see that happening. I think most of the nations in Africa realize that they don't want to become a safe haven for al-Qaida or terrorists organizations. What does it do for them except get them in trouble in the eyes of the world community?

There are some places where it is a little more difficult to monitor what is going on, and maybe slightly more receptive to the presence of this kind of activity. But I have been pleased that the African leaders that I have been in touch with and speaking to in recent months want to be part of the global war against terrorism. They have suffered from terrorism, and they recognize that terrorism is a crime against civilization. And if you want to have a better relationship with the rest of the world, especially, with the United States, this has to be part of our bilateral dialogue.

QUESTION: What about within the continent itself? I mean, is it -- if it's possible to intervene in some place like Iraq, isn't it also possible to intervene in a place like Liberia with what's going on there now?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are watching carefully what is happening in Liberia, and we also note that in a number of countries there have been peacekeeping forces. I wouldn't quite use the word "intervention." But in Northeast Congo, the United Nations has asked more forces to go, and then the French have responded, the French have responded in Cote D’Ivoire.

And we have sent a small team of experts in to help protect our facilities in Monrovia, and the French assisted in the evacuation of American and other European citizens from Monrovia. And so, we are constantly reviewing potential contingencies plans for the United States or the United States in coordination with other members of the international community to provide forces when it is deemed by political leaders that forces are required.

QUESTION: Would the United States be willing to provide --

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer in the abstract without a particular problem put to us. Fortunately, in number of places in Africa where there is a need for forces, those needs are being satisfied by African forces or by European forces. And that’s good. It's a shared responsibility.

QUESTION: Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.
[End]


Released on June 13, 2003

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