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Powell Interview on Radio Monte Carlo

Interview on Radio Monte Carlo

Secretary Colin L. Powell Taped on July 18 With Mr. Béchara El Bonn Washington, DC July 19, 2003

MR. EL BONN: Good morning, Mr. Powell.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Mr. El Bonn. How are you?

MR. EL BONN: Fine, and you? And thank you to cooperating with Radio Monte Carlo on this interview.

SECRETARY POWELL: Quite welcome, and I'm very pleased to be able to do it.

MR. EL BONN: Mr. Powell, finishing the fighting is not finishing the job, Prime Minister Tony Blair has said. Do you consider with the fighting you are really finished, and do you think the United States did a fundamental misjudgment about the Iraq post-Saddam, that everything will be according to the plan?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we knew that there would be continued fighting after the major combat was over. The Iraqi armed forces were defeated as a result of our operation, and that's what the President announced on the 2nd of May.

Since then, though, we have been subjected to these hit-and-run attacks and ambushes. We're not shocked or surprised by that. We think it will take a while before we finally defeat all of the remnants of the Baath Party and all of the Fedayeen and other criminal elements that might be within the country.

But let there be no question that we will prevail, and we will prevail because the Iraqi people want us to prevail. The Iraqi people want to live in peace. They don't want to see this continued violence in their country. And we will stay the course.

One can never predict what will happen after a conflict, but we made plans in anticipation of the need to provide security for the country, to rebuild its infrastructure, and to put a political process in place. As the situation unfolded, we have adjusted our plans and we'll continue to adjust our plans so that we can accomplish the objectives that President Bush and Prime Minister Blair spoke to yesterday: a democratic form of government in the hands of the Iraq people; the Iraqi oil available to the Iraqi people; and an Iraqi nation that will live in peace with its neighbors and no longer be exporting terrorism or developing weapons of mass destruction. That is our goal. It is a goal we will achieve.

MR. EL BONN: But are you worried about what General John Abizaid said, that U.S. troops are facing a guerrilla war in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: They are facing guerrilla-type activities from these remnants of the regime, but I have no doubt, nor do I think does General Abizaid have any doubt, that we will defeat them. And it'll take some time to do because they are not standing in ranks waiting to be fought; they are hiding. But they will be defeated, and I'm sure that General Abizaid and his troops and the other coalition troops working with them will do a good job in defeating them.

MR. EL BONN: Probably Saddam Hussein is still alive. How crucial is his capture or his killing to the success of your mission in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know if he's alive or dead. What I do know is he is no longer in charge in Baghdad. And with each passing day, as we form a governing council of Iraqi leaders, and as new local councils are created in towns and cities and villages throughout Iraq, and as the international community comes in to help the Iraqi people, and as more and more of these mass graves are opened up so the whole world can see what kind of a horrible man Saddam Hussein was, then I think whether he is alive or dead, he is irrelevant and he will have no part in the future of Iraq, either as a corpse or as a living individual.

MR. EL BONN: Some European powers have indicated that they are willing to deploy forces in Iraq, but only under UN authority. What are your conditions to involve the UN to help as a peacekeeping force in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, UN Resolution 1483 asks member-nations to assist in the stabilization efforts in Iraq, so there is sufficient UN authority now. Some nations, however, have asked for a broader mandate from the United Nations in order for them to contribute peacekeeping forces, and I am in conversation with those nations and I am in conversation with Secretary General Kofi Annan to examine whether or not another UN resolution might be useful.

But we haven't made a decision yet, and anybody who wishes to contribute now can do so under the authority of Resolution 1483. But we have an open mind on this issue and that's why we are consulting with our friends and with the Secretary General.

MR. EL BONN: After the war, some officials in Washington have suggested that France should be punished. Are we now beyond that stage?

SECRETARY POWELL: France is a friend and ally of the United States and has been a friend and ally for many, many years -- over 225 years. We have disagreements with France from time to time. We will act on those disagreements by doing what we think is correct.

We are forever reviewing our policies with respect to different countries around the world, to include France. But I consider, and the President of the United States considers, France to be a friend and an ally, and we hope that we will work together in the future to help the people of Iraq. And France joined in passing Resolution 1483.

So there's no question that we had a major disagreement earlier in the year with respect to whether or not military force should or should not have been used, but I think that is now behind us. We're all working together now to help the Iraqi people and we know that France will try to help in every way that it can. Whether that ultimately includes providing some assistance to the troops on the ground or not is not an issue right now. France is working with us on political efforts and economic support to the Iraqi people.

MR. EL BONN: Mr. Mahmoud Abbas will be visiting Washington next week. His people are expecting tangible support beyond improving their basic daily needs such as ending the settlement activities and stopping the construction of the wall and releasing the prisoners. What are you going to do to help the Palestinian Prime Minister?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are helping him a great deal already. We have put in place the roadmap. Both he and Prime Minister Sharon are now moving down the path laid out in that roadmap. Gaza has been turned back over to the Palestinian Authority, as has Bethlehem, and we are looking at other cities that could be turned over. Prisoners have been released. The United States has provided additional funding to the Palestinian Authority, directly this time.

And so a lot has been done in the last several weeks, and I also note that the level of terror and violence has gone down considerably. All of this is positive. The other issues that you touched on -- settlement activity, the wall that is going up -- all of these are issues that we will be speaking to Prime Minister Abbas about, and we will also be speaking to Prime Minister Sharon.

What is important is for all sides to remain committed to the roadmap and, one step at a time, deal with the issues that are before us as they are laid out in the roadmap.

MR. EL BONN: But you are putting a lot of pressure and condition on the Palestinian side. Why don't you do the same with Israel?

SECRETARY POWELL: You're wrong, sir. We are putting pressure on both sides. We are putting pressure on the Palestinian side to bring down the terror and violence and we are putting pressure on the Israeli side to eliminate the unauthorized outposts; to commit themselves to the roadmap; to turn over Gaza, which they have done; to turn back Bethlehem, which they have done. So both sides have obligations. Both sides have responsibilities. And we are helping both sides meet those obligations and commitments.

MR. EL BONN: You asked the Syrians to take certain major internal and external issues. What is your assessment of their responses so far?

SECRETARY POWELL: They have taken some minor steps with respect to the activities of terrorist organizations who are located and headquartered in Damascus. They have done a better job in making sure that people who are trying to escape from the justice of the Iraqi people are not finding haven in Syria.

But I think there is much more that Syria can do, and we laid out a full agenda for them, a list of items that we think they should work on, to include ending all work on weapons of mass destruction, to include ceasing all support to provide weapons to Hezbollah; and also, not just to close down an office building, but to expel from Damascus these individuals of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad who are defeating the dreams of the Palestinian people for their own state and who are not supporting the roadmap. When you speak about --

MR. EL BONN: And what about Lebanon?

SECRETARY POWELL: When you speak about who is putting pressure on whom, we have Hamas and PIJ who are still committed to the destruction of Israel and who are still keeping the capability to conduct terrorist activities. And they should not receive support from anyone in the world as long as they continue to have agendas such as this.

MR. EL BONN: And what about the withdrawal from Lebanon?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have to take note of the fact that Syria is occupying a country that is not part of Syria. Now, I understand the history of this decision and I am pleased that in recent weeks Syria has withdrawn more of its troops. And I hope the day will be reached when, with the agreement of all the parties, the Syrian army will be back home.

MR. EL BONN: Mr. Powell, are you concerned that your image in the Arab world is tarnished and you need to make a lot of effort to win the hearts and minds of the public opinion in this region?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, of course. And I think that's what we're doing, when you see the effort that the President has put into the Middle East peace process and the presentation of the roadmap. This is for the purpose of helping the Palestinian people achieve statehood, and I hope that people in the Middle East now see that the United States is committed as a partner to both the Palestinians and the Israelis to help them find a way forward.

It is easy to just criticize the United States and say, well, everybody is against America. But it is America who, right now, is in the forefront of trying to find a way forward to achieve peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians and to help the Palestinian people achieve their dream of statehood. It is Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, it is Arab-based organizations, that are keeping the Palestinians from that dream, not the United States.

We are working with all the parties, with the Arab nations, with the Palestinians and with the Israelis, to move forward so we can achieve the vision laid out by President Bush of a state for the Palestinian people. This should be the subject of conversation in the Arab world, and I hope increasingly people will understand the important role the United States is playing, will support that role, and will realize that anti-American sentiment is not appropriate. They should be supporting America's efforts.

MR. EL BONN: Mr. Powell, and the next question. Many in Europe and the Arab world do not believe that U.S. is working for freedom, but for economic and political domination of this area.

SECRETARY POWELL: How could you say such a thing? On what basis would you make such a statement? We liberated Kuwait, gave Kuwait back to the Kuwaiti people. We liberated Afghanistan and gave Afghanistan back to the Afghan people. We have removed a dictator in Baghdad, and the graves are now being opened. Do you not show some concern over the hundreds of thousands of Muslims that Saddam Hussein murdered?

America did not murder them. Saddam Hussein murdered them. And now he is gone and the Iraqi people can look to using their oil treasure to build their society, a free society, a democratic society, a Muslim society, and not wasting their money on weapons of mass destruction, palaces for dictators and threatening their neighbors.

And so America does not need an empire. America doesn't want an empire. America is not looking to impose its sovereignty on any land. And you cannot find an example in the last 50 to 60 years where America has sought to impose its will for its own purposes on anyone else's nation.

We frequently are called upon to solve problems. It's necessary, on occasion, for us to use our armed forces. And after we have used our armed forces, our only interest is in helping the people of that country achieve a better life for themselves and bringing our soldiers home if their job is done.

MR. EL BONN: Mr. Powell, thank you. Have a nice day.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.


Released on July 19, 2003

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