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Colin Powell Interview With Associated Press

Colin Powell Interview With Associated Press

Interview With Barry Schweid, George Gedda and Anne Gearan of Associated

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
December 17, 2004

(1:20 p.m. EST)

MR. SCHWEID: Mr. Secretary, thank you. And we're about a month out from the election scheduled in Iraq. There are plans for 9,000 polling stations around the country and a relatively small number of international observers to watch over the process. What specifically is the U.S. doing to increase monitors and what mechanism is in place to sort out challenges if the results are challenged?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, this is principally an election that is being run by the Iraqis. And some 130,000 Iraqis have been identified and mobilized nationally to man the polling places and run it, and thousands of them have been recruited to supervise it and make sure it goes well. The UN is putting in place individuals who will help to oversee it, and we're working with the international community to get outside observers, to provide a security environment for outside observers to come and see that it is done in a free, open, fair manner, just as it done around the world.

I don't know how many observers we would need for this, but a number of nations have expressed considerable interest in it and want to put observers in. And so we're going to do everything we can to make sure that there are enough people to conduct this election, monitor this election and, as challenges come along, to be dealt with by the Iraqi commission that's in charge of this, with UN supervision and outside observers being there to monitor.

MR. SCHWEID: A very quick follow-up. I couldn't get the question in to Annan yesterday. The Council -- but there's this notion that the UN isn't terribly pleased with the amount of protective support we're giving UN people.


MR. SCHWEID: Is that --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have been working hard with the UN and their security people to provide protection. We have helped train some Fijian troops that are going in to provide immediate protection to some of the UN personalities who are there now and we're working with a number of countries to make sure that we can provide area protection when the UN workers go out to different parts of the country. So we're working hard at it.

MS. GEARAN: Mr. Secretary, incidents of prisoner abuse and questionable interrogation tactics arise just about every day now. Is this hurting the U.S. reputation around the world and complicating diplomacy? And how do we stand for values and liberty when we're secretly incarcerating foreigners at Guantanamo?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, Abu Ghraib and the other charges that have been made have been a problem for us. They have not helped us in the Arab world. But at the same time, we are showing how a nation of values deals with such problems. The stories you're reading are about people being brought to justice. They're being charged with offenses and they're being tried for these offenses. And so this is being done in an open way, a transparent way, and the rule of law will prevail and we will hold our personnel accountable for these kinds of actions.

And I hope that the Arab world, while condemning this kind of activity on our part, as we condemn this kind of activity on our part, also see that a nation such as ours, resting on the rule of law and values, is taking every action to correct this kind of activity and problem and bringing those responsible to justice.

MR. GEDDA: Mr. Secretary, according to an AP poll last week, majorities abroad oppose the Bush Administration, and majorities at least in France, Germany and Spain have a low regard for the American people. In an age of global terrorism, can the U.S. afford such widespread anti-American sentiment?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there's no question that in Europe and in other parts of the world, the Arab world, the Muslim world, there is a negative view towards some of our policies. Our policies in Iraq and some of the issues associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have caused us to get negative ratings of the kind you just described.

But I don't believe it is against America; I think it is against these policies. And if these policies turn out to demonstrate to the world that they are the correct policies, by putting in place democracy in Iraq and by helping the Israelis and the Palestinians moving down the roadmap to a state, then I think these numbers can be reversed.

My visits in the world, and I speak to audiences all around the world everywhere I go, yes, they want to know about our policies and they will criticize our policies. But they also want to hear about America. They're interested in coming to America to study, to go to our facilities here, whether it's recreational facilities or medical facilities.

So I think there is still a deep reservoir of good feeling toward the United States even though we have to get on top of the attitudes associated with our policies, and I think we will do that as our policies bear fruit.

MS. GEARAN: Mr. Secretary, you had early qualms about the war in Iraq -- a war based, in part, on assertions that Saddam Hussein had deadly weapons we have not found there. Now there is a debate over the nuclear threat posed by Iran and discussion of a military strike to neutralize that threat. Do you have any similar skepticism of the validity of the intelligence on Iran, and what is your advice to the President about whether the United States should take any military action?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know of any military action that is being contemplated. Obviously, in the Pentagon, people are always thinking about the unthinkable. But there are no military plans about to be launched and there's no point in getting everybody excited about this.

What the President has said clearly is that we're going to work with our European Union friends, we're going to work with the IAEA, to put pressure on Iran to make sure that the concerns of the international community are satisfied by Iran. And we support what the EU-3 have done and we hope that the EU-3, working with Iran, can make this a more permanent solution and not just a suspension of enrichment and conversion activities.

We are looking for a peaceful solution and we believe that we have made progress over the last several years in putting a spot light on Iranian nuclear activity and putting a heat lamp on Iranian nuclear activity, and the whole world is now concerned about it.

MS. GEARAN: Do you think they're still hiding things?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have reason to believe that they have not abandoned the desire to develop a nuclear weapons; and if you have that desire, then you may well be hiding things. And so until they have satisfied the international community and until there is absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind that they are not hiding something, I think it's wise in this case to be somewhat suspicious.

MS. GEARAN: You came to this job with an extensive record and resume in public service. Do you think your personal credibility was at all damaged by the Iraq war? You mentioned the attitudes of international --

SECRETARY POWELL: You said something earlier that suggested I was in opposition to the war. That's not accurate. I made it clear from the very beginning that we should take this case to the United Nations. The President did just that. And we also knew at the time he took the case to the United Nations that if the United States -- or if United Nations was unable to deal with this matter, then it might result in a conflict. And that's what happened. And I was fully supportive of that approach and that strategy: Try to solve peacefully; if you can't solve it peacefully and the problem is still there and it does require military action, then get a coalition to undertake that military action. And that's what we did.

And with respect to the information I presented on 5 February of 2003 to the UN, it was the best information that the international intelligence community had. It was not just what I presented; it's what the CIA said was the correct information; it was what a number of other foreign intelligence agencies thought; it's the kind of information that was presented to the Congress, upon which the Congress based its resolution of support, and the kind of information that President Clinton used to conduct bombing operations against Iraq in 1998.

And so it wasn't a personal thing with me. It was a presentation of the best information we had. Most of that information has turned out to be reasonably accurate with respect to their intention, with respect to their capability, with respect to the unanswered questions about what they were doing. Where it turns out not to have been accurate was that we haven't found any stockpiles. Why we haven't found any stockpiles is the subject of a number of inquiries of when we were acting on this and presenting information to the Congress. When I was presenting the information to the UN, we had every reason, by our intelligence analysis, to believe that stockpiles were there.

MR. SCHWEID: On North Korea, a different approach. The diplomacy impasse continues to go on, a long time. You've tried various ways of going at it. Do you still hold out hope that they can be talked into ending their program? And is there any consideration of military or other measures, increasing their isolation -- isn't that risky? What's ahead?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you're asking me to accept your hypothetical.

MR. SCHWEID: Okay. No, please.

SECRETARY POWELL: You are. But we believe that the six-party talks is still the way to go. The President is committed to finding a political, diplomatic solution. We believe that, ultimately, North Korea will determine that it is in their best interest because in the proposals we have put forward, there are security assurances of the kind that they have asked for and there is a path that's clear as to how the international community will come together and help them with their economic needs and their energy needs.

Now, the North Koreans are, of course, suspicious and constantly accusing us of having hostile intent. We have no hostile intent. We have no intention of invading. We have no intention of attacking North Korea. And we hope that, in due course, they will agree to what they agreed to -- or they will execute what they agreed to earlier, and that was the six of us coming together to find a way to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula. That is the stated position of the North Koreans. So we're trying to figure out how to get to that point.

MR. SCHWEID: Do they have to stop the program before the goodies arrive? Food apart. I know our policies on food aid.

SECRETARY POWELL: Some of our friends in the six-party framework are prepared to provide some energy assistance at the very beginning of the process.


MR. GEDDA: Mr. Secretary, the crisis in Darfur continues. What is the solution and what are you doing in these last few weeks to address this crisis?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the solution is to get an agreement between the combatants, the rebels in the Darfur area and the government, to cease military activity against each other. It will not be ceased if you have the rebels continuing to attack and if the governments don't respond and the rebels keep attacking; and if the government's attacked and the Jingaweit follows in behind the government, then you're putting more of the population at risk.

So we need a political solution of this conflict between the rebels and the government. We need more AU forces to get in there to monitor the situation. They're only at about 800 to 1,000 and they need, two, three, four times that number. And that's what we're working on now, and also to make sure that the aid continues to flow.

MR. GEDDA: Mr. Secretary, U.S. diplomats in Cuba have refused to take down Christmas decorations and the "75" sign, referring to the jailed Cuban dissidents, and now the Cubans have responded by putting up a billboard with a swastika and pictures of the Abu Ghraib prison abuse. Do you support the Christmas display? And what do you say about -- what do you say to the Castro regime about their response?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course we support the Christmas display. It's a display of lights celebrating an important moment in our faith and the faith of the Cuban people, and to put "75" on the side of the building was showing solidarity with people who are being held and intimidated and whose rights are being denied by the Cuban Government. And the Cuban Government's response is to put forward and show the world a swastika? I don't think that is very wise on their part, and we will continue to stick by our troops down there, our diplomats down there and our Christmas display, with the "75."

MR. SCHWEID: Russia. Gently, but carefully, there has been some criticism from you about the way Putin has behaved on democratic fronts. Do you think they're -- I've heard two former ambassadors, Matlock and Hartman, the other day say it's in reverse; democracy will take at least two generations. What is your feeling about the future of the human rights? And what would you advise President Bush to do in his second term to try to promote human rights in the future?

SECRETARY POWELL: There has been considerable improvement in Russia since the days of the Soviet Union. Human rights have improved. They do have open elections, not perhaps as open as we'd like. We'd like to see more controversy in the media, so to speak, so that all sides can be represented in the media and everybody can get full access to the media. But this is not the Russia of the old days of the Soviet Union.

Now, President Putin has taken some steps that we think do not lead toward cementing his democracy properly, and when that has been the case we have spoken to him about it. We have spoken to him about it in the spirit of friendship and in the spirit of asking why some of these actions are taking place.

And so Russia is not going back to being the Soviet Union. The Cold War is not coming back. And we want to encourage President Putin and our Russian colleagues to keep moving in the right direction to build their democracy on a sound foundation, and that includes free access to media, respect for human rights, and to keep moving in the direction they had been moving.

MR. SCHWEID: The other day you, with the French Minister, you spoke of Israel having to be flexible. You want things from Israel. Israel seems to be doing things to assist the Palestinians. What is it specifically, that hasn't been said yet, that Israel is expected to do to help the Palestinians? And, if you know, this account in the Times today about this massive aid program to the Palestinians, to the point where they would get $600 per Palestinian in assistance from the U.S. and Europe, could you speak to --

SECRETARY POWELL: The Israelis have shown flexibility. They have said that they would make it possible for people to get to polling places on the 9th of January. They have dealt with the issue of how Palestinians in East Jerusalem will participate in the election. And I think this is very good.

Since Mr. Arafat went to the hospital and then he subsequently passed on, the Palestinians have demonstrated a great deal of maturity and sophistication in the way that they have gone through their political transition, and I think the Israelis appreciate that and are responding in kind.

So we have some dialogue taking place and we have both sides showing some flexibility. I think both sides recognize there is a new opportunity here for peace, and I think they're moving in the right way. We have said all along that, as part of the roadmap, it will be necessary to rebuild the Palestinian economy, which is in -- just has been shattered, as a result of the Intifadah.

And so we have been working with the European Union, with the World Bank and with other international financial institutions to get ready to do that. I can't comment on specific amounts.

MR. SCHWEID: Specifics.


MR. SCHWEID: What if -- is there a U.S. role, if the elections do not produce people that, in the U.S.'s judgment, are legitimate reformers, legitimately constructive? I have a hunch who's going to emerge, but we're not sure. Is there some recourse the U.S. can take?

SECRETARY POWELL: The recourse is a full, free, fair, open election, and the Palestinian people have to pick their president. And we will work with the president and we assume the Palestinian people, based on the candidates we have seen so far, will have a good choice to make between a number of choices and we expect that any of the candidates we've seen are people we could work with.

MS. GEARAN: Mr. Secretary --

MR. SCHWEID: Okay, sorry.

MS. GEARAN: Do you anticipate that you'll be finished with public service when you leave this job, or might you have another government job up your sleeve?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have not made any plans for the next phase of my life, but doors will open and some of them I'll go through. But whether there is a public component to it remains to be seen. I will be in public life in some way. It might be in a nongovernmental position. It might be in youth work or in other work. I've still got some tread wear left on me.

MR. SCHWEID: We've talked, maybe semi-privately, about your interest in education, African American children being left behind in school.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm interested in any child being left behind -- African American, Hispanic American, or an white American in Appalachia. So I have always had an interest in making sure that all young people are educated so they can take advantage of the opportunities that exist in this new century. And as I look at the opportunities that will be given to me when I retire, I wouldn't be surprised if working in the field of mentoring or education or something like that does not appear on my calendar.

MR. SCHWEID: One thing, before we run out of time. There have been suggestions that the Administration is sort of trying to knock out, or oust, international figures they don't approve of: ElBaradei; the guy that headed the chemical thing a couple of years ago, Bustani; Annan, of course, we're a little cool to but you don't criticize. What about the ElBaradei situation? What's the latest?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Dr. ElBaradei has -- is finishing his second term as Director of the IAEA, and our position is that we should follow what's called the Geneva Rule, which essentially says that incumbents to these international positions should only serve two terms. And so we see no reason why that shouldn't be the case with the IAEA.

And this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone, and Dr. ElBaradei and I talked about this over the summer, when I had reason to believe that he might be retiring at the end of the second term. And I told him at that time that the United States position would be that the two-term Geneva Rule should apply in this case.

And I don't see why we wouldn't take the opportunity in the application of that rule to see what other candidates might be there. I'm aware of number of people who have expressed an interest in the job, and therefore, why should we not take advantage of this interest and see who applies as a candidate, apply the two-term rule, and see who surfaces as candidates? And then the IAEA Board of Governors can make a judgment.

MR. SCHWEID: Criticism has focused on, how can we say, go, ElBaradei, if we don't have a candidate in mind. And you're saying there are people --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm saying until --

MR. SCHWEID: -- there are people we've looked at.

SECRETARY POWELL: Until everybody accepts the proposition that two terms should be enough, and if we use the Geneva Rule, so to speak, then I think you will generate candidates. People will say, look, okay, the job is a possibility, it's open, so I will offer myself up for candidacy. And I know a number of individuals who feel that way.

MR. SCHWEID: Thank you.

2004/1379 [End]

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