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Colin Powell Remarks On Iraqi Prisoner Abuse

Remarks with Haitian Interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
May 5, 2004
(10:15 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. We only have a few moments for the Prime Minister to be with us here. He has to be up on Capitol Hill for an appointment with the Congressional Black Caucus. But let me say that I'm very pleased to have the Prime Minister here in the State Department. The Prime Minister stepped forward in a time of great need on the part of the Haitian people, and after living in the United States for so many years and having a very distinguished career in international organizations, he went back to serve his people in this interim capacity.

And since he’s been there, we have been able, with his help and the help of his cabinet and with the help of President Alexandre, to bring some stability to the country. We avoided a bloodbath. And now we are in the process of rebuilding. Haiti is in great need of financial support, other kinds of support. We are working to get peacekeepers into the country under a UN resolution, and I said to the Prime Minister that he can count on U.S. support.

And as you know, the Prime Minister has already scheduled elections and an Electoral Council has been established --

PRIME MINISTER LATORTUE: Just yesterday.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- to get the island ready for elections.

So, Mr. Prime Minister, a great pleasure to have you here, and I again congratulate you, President Alexandre and all of the other members of your government for what you have done to bring hope, once again, into the lives of the Haitian people.

PRIME MINISTER LATORTUE: Thank you, Secretary of State. You know, and I would like to express my thanks and my gratitude toward the support you expressed of the government, and President Boniface Alexandre asked me to extend his best wishes also to President Bush and to yourself, and we do appreciate the cooperation we are getting in those difficult times.

You know, Haiti just went through very, very difficult times, where the entire economic infrastructure has been almost destroyed. We are trying to rebuild confidence into the country, we are trying to bring good economic governance, and we are trying also to bring democracy.

Yesterday, before leaving Haiti, we have installed a new Electoral Council and we hope the Council will start working the work so election will take place in 2005 and a new government will be installed and transfer of power will be done to the letters on February 7, 2006.

We do appreciate the cooperation we are getting from the United States Government, and while here I will see the World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, IMF, and also the member of Congress for the HERO Act to see how we can help creating more jobs into the country. Because the roots of the problem in Haiti, it is unemployment, so we are trying to bring development, and development will help bring more and more democracy in Haiti.

Thank you again, Secretary, for your help.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have time for one question, if anybody has anything. Yeah.

QUESTION: Is the Administration planning new assistance to Haiti in light of the changed situation there?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, for the moment, we're looking at all of the accounts that are available to us in the Department to see what we might be able to transfer into support for Haiti. We're looking at our counternarcotics accounts and really, really scrubbing the Department.

And, of course, once we have a better understanding of the overall need, we'll put it into our normal budgeting process. But we are looking hard and looking in other departments as well for what they are able to do.

Thank you.

PRIME MINISTER LATORTUE: Okay, thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want you to be late.

(The Secretary escorts the Minister to his car.)

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, wait, can I just ask one about Haiti and about the aid? How much have you been able to identify so far as you've been scrounging around?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have a number that I can give you yet. Rich Armitage is hard at work on it now. We discussed it this morning, but I don't have a number that I can give you yet.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you know, up on Capitol Hill, senators are furious that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld did not tell them about the situation regarding the Iraqi prison abuse. Even as it was about to air on 60 Minutes, they had known about that specific account for weeks.

I'm wondering, first of all, when you heard about this, you have to deal, obviously, with the international reaction to this. And also, where ultimately does responsibility lie? Does it lie with those that supervise the prisoners or much higher up the chain of command?

SECRETARY POWELL: It remains to be seen what the total extent of the problem is, and then you start to follow it up the chain of command and the chain of accountability. And I'm confident they will certainly do that.

Keep in mind that General Sanchez launched an investigation of this matter the day after he heard about it, in the early part of the year. And if you check General Mark Kimmitt's briefings over this past several months, you will see that General Kimmitt noted in his briefings that such investigations were underway and he even made an announcement of when some people had been charged. I think that announcement was made publicly in Baghdad on the 20th of March.

So investigations have been underway; actions has been taken by the chain of command during this period. It was the photos themselves that caused the big stir, rightly so, when we could all see what the investigations were about and what people were being accused of having participated in.

And so we are all terribly distressed and shocked by those photos and by what those photos said about the manner in which the troops there were doing their job. And as you have heard the President, you have heard Secretary Rumsfeld, myself and others say, it's unacceptable. But we are a nation that believes in justice. We are a nation that's governed by the rule of law, and nowhere is that more the case than in the Armed Forces of the United States.

And so Secretary Rumsfeld is hard at work seeing what other investigatory efforts should be put into this matter. He is in touch with members of Congress. I'm sure I'll have a chance to discuss it when I'm up on the Hill this afternoon, as well.

We want to get all the information out so that the American people understand what's happened and also to make sure that our friends in the Arab world, especially, know that we are a nation of laws, we are a nation of justice, and this kind of action and misbehavior will not be tolerated and will be dealt with in the firmest possible manner.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've called -- you've said that you're sure this is isolated, this incident. What makes you so sure that it's isolated?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right now, it seems to be isolated in this particular place, with respect to this -- this incident, if I can call it an incident. The photos you have seen that dealt with this particular wing of that prison, I don't know that there are more individuals involved in that beyond what the investigating officer found.

Now, we are also undertaking a broad review of all of our detention facilities in Baghdad, as well as elsewhere, in Afghanistan, and reviewing our procedures in Guantanamo to make sure we haven't overlooked anything. But with respect to that wing of the Abu Gharib prison that has caused all of the attention, I've seen nothing to suggest that the individuals involved in that constitute a larger group than has already been identified by the military.

But, once again, I'll have to yield to Secretary Rumsfeld and his colleagues to give the definitive answer on that.

Okay, one more. Then I've got to run.

QUESTION: The United States is hard at work on trying to get more countries into Iraq to provide security for the UN, this multinational force.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah.

QUESTION: Do you think that the reports of the alleged mistreatment of these Iraqi prisoners might have a blow to your efforts in that sense?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think so. We're hard at work on this. And I think people understand that if they want to see a safe Iraq, an Iraq that is sovereign once again, they need to help with the process. And one of the important areas in which help is needed is to assist the UN in doing its job in Iraq to help get organized for elections.

And so I hope that this would not cause anybody to hold back any support that they might have provided. What we're asking for is people to help the Iraqi people, and you help them through participating in a multinational force, and especially that component of the force that will deal with providing security to the United Nations personnel, who we expect to be returning in some number.

Thank you.

2004/492
[End]


Released on May 5, 2004

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