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Powell IV on BBC World News with Matt Frei

Interview on BBC World News with Matt Frei

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Pretoria, South Africa
July 9, 2003

(Aired 4:18 p.m. EDT)

MR. FINNEGAN: The U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell is traveling with Mr. Bush in Africa. He's been speaking exclusively to our correspondent, Matt Frei. Matt began by asking Mr. Powell why Mr. Bush was in Africa at a time of international problems in Iraq, Iran and North Korea, and after he'd said during his election campaign that Africa wasn't exactly a priority.

SECRETARY POWELL: Because Africa is a priority, and he has said that ever since he became President. Early on in the administration, he made it clear that he wanted us to devote a lot of attention to Africa, and we've got a number of very important programs that benefit Africa and Africans, whether it's the expanded AGOA program which allows African products to have easier access to American markets, and it's made a significant difference in the South African economy, as well as where we were yesterday in Senegal.

The President's initiative with respect to what we call the Millennium Challenge Account, which billions of dollars of new aid for developing countries that are on the right path for democracy and the free enterprise system, or it's what the President is doing with respect to the greatest pandemic, the greatest weapons of mass destruction on the face of the earth today, HIV/AIDS, with his new $15 billion program. I think all of these initiatives and many other initiatives that he has shows that he cares deeply about Africa, as he should. It is a large part of the world, of course; it's an important part of the world.

MR. FREI: But one of the big gripes in Africa are the farm subsidies, the domestic farm subsidies in the U.S., which have made it virtually impossible for Africa to export its cheap agricultural products to the U.S.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they have an even bigger gripe against the farm subsidies that come out of Europe. The whole issue of farm subsidies is a very difficult, complex and controversial one, both as it affects the United States and Europe. The President has taken action to eventually eliminate all of these subsidies over a period of time. We understand that market distortions are created by these kinds of subsidies and we have to find a way where the developed world can find a solution that protects our industries, our agricultural industries -- and they are industries -- in Europe and the United States, but do it in a way that allows African producers and other producers in other parts of the world to have access to our markets.

MR. FREI: Let's talk about Liberia. The President, again today, called on Charles Taylor to quit. Charles Taylor doesn't seem to be listening any more. He said last week that he might take up a Nigerian invitation for exile. Now, every time he talks about that, he seems to be adding other conditions.

Where do we stand on Liberia?

SECRETARY POWELL: He said he will step down. He said it publicly. He has said it to interlocutors privately. And we are expecting him to step down, as he said he would.

MR. FREI: But what about the timing of this?

SECRETARY POWELL: The timing is something to be determined. What we don't want to see is a sudden vacuum, which causes even more instability in that very troubled country. We believe that the presence of peacekeepers should be coincident with his departure, and that's why we have sent assessment teams. We have an assessment team in Monrovia right looking at the humanitarian situation, and I expect to have a report from them in the next day or so.

MR. FREI: But he's got to leave Liberia first before your troops go in?

SECRETARY POWELL: He -- I didn't say our troops are going in. It's a judgment we have to make. The President is considering all of his options. But we believe it is important for him not to be there when a transitional government is formed and when peacekeepers are present to make sure that the situation doesn't descend into more chaos at that moment.

MR. FREI: What about Zimbabwe? You, yourself, I believe, in an article in the New York Times, called on Robert Mugabe to quit. You said it was time for him to go. The President has said the same. But this call was not repeated today and the Zimbabwe opposition is rather frustrated about that.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they shouldn't be frustrated. Our position is consistent. We believe that something has to change in Zimbabwe, that under President Mugabe's leadership, the economy has been driven into the ground. The political system is being devastated. The financial system is collapsing.

And this is a problem that Zimbabweans have to solve. And it is important for President Mugabe to work in an open manner with the opposition to find a political solution to move forward.

MR. FREI: But are you meeting with the opposition here? Because there is a delegation in town at the moment that wants to meet with you or other members of the U.S. delegation.

SECRETARY POWELL: We're not meeting with them here. We came here to meet with the South African leadership, although my Assistant Secretary of State, Mr. Kansteiner, has been in telephonic communications with the leader of the opposition this afternoon.

MR. FREI: Two more brief ones, if I may, Niger and the issue of the allegations of the uranium exports to Iraq. You, yourself, if I am correct in thinking, thought that that was not a truthful allegation at the time it was made; is that right?

SECRETARY POWELL: The question is not truthfulness. The question is credibility at a moment in time.

MR. FREI: But you had your doubts about it, didn't you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I did not use it in the formal presentation I made on the 5th of February because by then there was such controversy about it, and as we looked at all that we knew about it, it did not seem to be the kind of claim that I should take into the UN.

But here is the more important point. There should be no doubt in anyone's mind, no matter what you might think about one piece of intelligence or another piece of intelligence, that Saddam Hussein was trying to develop nuclear weapons in the past, and, if freed of sanctions and allowed to continue unabated without sanctions, without the international community intervening, he would have continued to pursue weapons of mass destruction.

MR. FREI: So no credibility problem?

SECRETARY POWELL: No credibility problem in my judgment. This was a dictator who had gassed people in the past, and, if we had not intervened, would have been developing the capability to gas people in the future, or to use biological weapons against them, or at least to threaten the world with those kinds of weapons. And yes, nuclear weapons.

MR. FREI: Secretary of State, thank you very much indeed.


Released on July 9, 2003

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