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Powell & British Secretary of State Jack Straw

Joint Press Availability With British Secretary of State Jack Straw

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE Office of the Spokesman For Immediate Release October 24, 2001

Joint Press Availability With British Secretary of State Of Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Jack Straw And Secretary of State Colin L. Powell

Benjamin Franklin Room Washington, D.C.

11:35 A.M. EDT

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It is a great pleasure to welcome again my colleague, Foreign Minister Jack Straw, and look forward to a profitable discussion. This is a little bit different, in that we are giving the press conference before the meeting, due to schedule difficulties, and I have to get up on the Hill very quickly.

But it is a pleasure to welcome him, especially today, after we have seen such progress yesterday in the Northern Ireland peace process, and I want to extend my congratulations to Jack and to Prime Minister Tony Blair and to the Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, for this step forward, and it shows what can happen when one remains persistent and with a determination to solve what appear to be intractable problems.

I am sure that the Minister and I will also have occasion to talk a great deal about the situation in Afghanistan. And let me take this opportunity to again thank the British Government for the strong support that they have given to us in this time of crisis since the 11th of September. As always, we can count on the United Kingdom, and they have come through again. And likewise, we deeply appreciate their military contribution to the campaign.

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But more than just these political-military things, we deeply appreciate the outpouring of support that we received from the British people during this time of challenge and crisis. We also had a chance to extend our condolences to Her Majesty's citizens who were lost in the World Trade Center as well.

We will be speaking, I am sure, also about the future of Afghanistan. The Foreign Minister gave a very important speech earlier this week that talked about what we have to do with respect to putting in place a broad-based government and what we have to do with respect to helping the people of Afghanistan get on a path to a better life in a post- Taliban regime. And I am sure there are a full range of European issues, NATO issues, that we will also have a chance to discuss in the next hour or so.

So, Jack, welcome. It is always a pleasure to have you, sir.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Colin, thank you very much indeed for that welcome. I am delighted to be here. The last time I was in this room was towards the end of June, in rather more benign circumstances. Since then, we have had the atrocities on the 11th of September. And I think it is worth my underlining to you and to the American people the huge admiration we have in the United Kingdom for the steadfastness and courage which was shown on the 11th of September by so many people in New York and Washington and elsewhere, for the steadfastness and patience and wisdom shown by your President, by you, sir, and by members of your administration for all the work that is now being done by United States forces as well, and for the fact that whilst it's -- and I can say this as somebody who has only ever been a politician -- politicians, sometimes put their reputations but no more on the line. It is members of our armed forces who put their lives on the line, and we expect great things from them and we get great things from them.

You have been very kind, as your President has, about the sentiment and the feeling in the United Kingdom. It was instinctive. It was just there, because we feel part of almost of a family. But it was also instinctive because of a recognition that, on two occasions, in a very short space of time, the United States came to our aid. We would not enjoy the freedoms which we do in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe and throughout the rest of the world without the selfless aid of the United States at our time of need. So it is the least, the very least, that we can do.

Secretary Powell has gone through the agenda that we will be discussing during our lunch. Obviously, includes the future of Afghanistan. You were good enough to mention the speech which I made two days ago. We have done a great deal of thinking on both sides of the Atlantic about the future of Afghanistan. You can't say exactly what form of government it should have, but I think we can see the building blocks that are necessary to secure a stable and safe future for that country.

On the issue of terrorism, thank you, too, for what you have said about the Northern Ireland peace process. That, I think, is a very good example about how, from very, very dark circumstances -- and we have had to live with terrorism -- the people of Northern Ireland, much worse, have had to live with terrorism for year after year after year, killed hundreds of people. But from very, very dark beginnings, it is possible to see a light and then, provided the process is kept going and kept going through those difficulties, you can achieve a result. And that, I believe, is what has happened. Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Jack. We have time for a couple of questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the situation on the West Bank, a little unclear. But Israel or Israeli forces have made two arrests and, apparently, maybe a half- dozen Palestinians have been killed. You and the President have asked Israel to step back, to pull back. What do you make of all this? Do you approve of the arrests, and I guess you don't approve of the continued presence?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think it's important for us to try to get back to where we were a week-and-a-half or so ago, when we started to see some movement toward the Mitchell Committee implementation, interrupted by the tragic, tragic death of the Israeli cabinet minister.

But right now, I think it's important for Chairman Arafat to do everything within his power to make the arrests of those who are responsible and to get the violence down to zero, preferably, but to the lowest level possible. And I think at this time, it would be appropriate for the Israeli Government to immediately withdraw from the Area A villages that they have occupied. And let's try not to let this cycle of violence become even more intense than it has been in recent days. It is a very volatile period, and I would like to see this start moving in the other direction.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, just as a soldier, how much do you think you are going to be able to achieve militarily on the ground by this deadline now of mid-November, winter and Ramadan, in terms of removing the Taliban, in terms of eliminating the bin Laden network?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are, of course, sensitive to the fact that Ramadan will be beginning in the middle of November, and winter also will start about that same time -- the winter period -- which makes military operations more difficult.

But the important point to remember is we have military objectives to accomplish, and I would like to see all of those objectives accomplished in the next few days. And as we approach this period of Ramadan and winter, we will just have to make an assessment at that time as to where we are, and if it's necessary to continue military action, then that is the judgment that I am sure the President will support. And we will wait to hear from our military authorities about it.

We are sensitive to Ramadan, but we can't let that be the sole determinant of whether or not we continue our military activities.

QUESTION: Do you feel you can get the job done by then?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't say. I think I'd better leave that to how events unfold between now and then, and the judgment of our military authorities, not mine.

QUESTION: Can you give us an idea of where the discussion or the debate is regarding whether the US plans to put Iraq on its list of targets very soon, especially now --

SECRETARY POWELL: On its list of what, targets?

QUESTION: Goes after Iraq soon. There is a lot of discussion about this, especially now the speculation that some of the biological agents, chemical agents, could be coming from Iraq. And would the British support this as --

SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, that is speculation, and so I can't respond with a concrete answer on that speculation. We keep a close eye on Iraq. We will continue to work on modifying the sanctions regime so we keep the Iraqi regime bottled up with respect to the development of weapons of mass destruction, but we do not hurt the people of Iraq, so that they can get the goods that they need. And I think the entire national community is united around that strategy.

But as the President has said, first things first, and our first priority right now is to deal with the al-Qaida network and Usama bin Laden in Afghanistan, and wherever else it is located around the world, or wherever else it has host countries supporting al-Qaida. And then, in due course, we will turn our attention to other sources of terrorism, which are so destabilizing in the world. And we will keep a close eye on Iraq during that whole process.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Our position on Iraq, just to repeat what I have said on many occasions, is this, and it applies to any other country as well. You take military action on the basis of the clearest possible evidence of wrongdoing, and also following a view that no other methods of restraint will work. Those conditions have been present in respect to the al-Qaida organization, and the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is only there at the moment that military action is on the agenda. Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you made reference to it's time for Chairman Arafat to make arrests.

SECRETARY POWELL: More arrests. He's made some.

QUESTION: Right. Prime Minister Sharon has asked for those arrested to be turned over to Israel. Would it be sufficient, as far as the US is concerned, if the Palestinians prosecute those that they may arrest?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't want to take a position on that. I just want to see -- let's get the perpetrators in solid custody, where they are not just in some form of light house arrest, where they can walk out anytime they wish. Let's get them in solid custody, where they clearly have been arrested and they are no longer in a position to commit new acts of terrorism, and then we can deal with the issue that you raise.

One more, and then we have to go to lunch.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, does the situation in Northern Ireland not show us all that negotiations is really the only way forward in all of these situations? And just secondly, when you met Martin McGuinness yesterday, did he give you assurances that there is no link between the IRA and the FARC guerillas in Colombia?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't, when I met with him yesterday, we didn't discuss that. We were just sort of celebrating the progress that was achieved yesterday. And I think negotiations are always to be preferred to military conflict, and even when you have military conflict, it doesn't always result in the kind of classic military win. Very often, it sets the stage for negotiations.

And so I hope what we have seen in Northern Ireland in the last 24 hours, which culminates a process that took many, many years long to get to this point, is an example of what can be achieved when people of good will come together, recognize they have strong differences, differences that they have fought over for years, but it's time to put those differences aside in order to move forward and to provide a better life for the children of Northern Ireland.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Could I just add one thing to that, if I may? Of course, negotiation is far, far better -- infinitely better -- than military action. As far as Northern Ireland is concerned, we welcome hugely the progress that has been made following the Good Friday Agreement. It also has to be said that before that happened, there had to be a change of approach by those who saw terrorism as the answer. And that approach partly changed because of the firmness of the military and police response to that terrorism. And if there had not been that firm response by successive British governments and others to the terrorist threat that was posed on both sides, we would not have been able to get some of those people into negotiations. We would not be marking what is a satisfactory day in the history of Northern Ireland today.

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, and now we do have to --

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Thank you very much indeed.

END 11:48 P.M. EDT


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