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Colin L. Powell Press Briefing In SA – September 5

Colin L. Powell Press Briefing In SA – September 5

Press Briefing

Secretary Colin L. Powell Johannesburg, South Africa September 5, 2002

5:30 p.m.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you. I want to have an opportunity to spend a few moments with you and answer any questions you might have as the Summit comes to a conclusion.

As the Secretary General announced it earlier, I think it s been a successful effort. I am very pleased that we were able to come to agreement on the Johannesburg plan of action. I think it shows that we have a shared vision of how to move forward. I think it shows that the world is committed to sustainable development. I am very pleased with the response I got from the partnerships that were announced, whether it s on the Congo Basin Initiative or on the water or agricultural efforts, that we have (inaudible) and we have announced.

I think that the United States is very proud of the record that we ve brought to this Summit meeting. The President s Millennium Challenge Account is a well-received program. I enjoy emphasizing the fact that in addition to the growth that our normal AID budgets have enjoyed in the first few years of the administration, this is a 50 percent increase on top of that level, taking it to something well over $15 billion from say a level of about $10 billion, and we hope to reach that on a 3 year ramp up.

I am also pleased to bring to this Summit the President s commitment to open and free trade, and the fact that we ve succeeded in getting trade promotion authority passed in the Congress, that we were successful in getting our partners to agree with us to launch the Doha round of discussions. So I think it has been successful. I am glad that my strong delegation did such a terrific job here resolving a number of contentious issues, but the real challenge as the Secretary General said is not just what is said in the statement, but the actions that will take place in the months and years ahead. And I can tell you that President Bush is committed to following up on the commitments that we have made, and making sure that sustainable development for people throughout the world to achieve a better life will very much remain a top priority of his administration.

Activist hecklers always get a bit of attention; but I was more impressed by the reaction that I received from my fellow Ministers, as I had my bilateral discussions as well as (as) I passed through the hallways in and out. So I think it s been a successful meeting. I had excellent discussions with all the other individuals I met with today, and I look forward to the continuation of the trip tomorrow. I d be delighted to take a few questions on any subjects you might choose to ask about.

QUESTION: Could you identify what progress, if any, you ve made towards the Iraqi question you ve had discussions to have untrammeled (inaudible) this the key issue for you now?

SECRETARY POWELL: We were pushing for the international community to recognize that the situation could not continue the way it has been for the past four years since inspectors left. But the issue, I said to all of them, is not inspectors; the issue is disarmament. The President made that point again in his statement to the Congress, and I m sure he ll be making it again in the future. One way toward achieving that goal of disarmament is perhaps with inspectors playing that role. That remains to be seen. Iraq has frustrated previous efforts of inspectors and created conditions which caused the inspectors to leave in 1998. So we ll see.

Regime change is another way to deal with the question of weapons of mass destruction, and that s why it has been a policy of the United States for the last roughly four-plus years. So, as the President said to Congressional leaders today and said in his statement and the letter that he has sent to Congressional leaders, he plans to consult widely with members of Congress, with the American people; he plans to consult with a number of foreign leaders over the next several days, and then consult with many more when he is up at the United Nations General Assembly next week. Then he will present a message to the General Assembly of the direction in which he believes we ought to move.

Inspections will be an issue, but they are not the primary issue. The primary issue is how do we get Iraq to comply with its obligations under these various UN resolutions. For Tariq Aziz to come here and issue the same sort of vapid statements that he has issued in the past about "we have no weapons of mass destruction and we will never let inspectors in'" but then the next day he gives a wink and a nod, that "maybe we will let the weapons inspectors in", well, that s not good enough anymore. We can t let the international community be frustrated in that way. We cannot allow this regime with this leader to simply ignore the multilateral views of the international community as reflected in those many UN resolutions. I got a solid expression of support from everybody I spoke to on that basic premise, that this challenge must be dealt with, and as the President said today, doing nothing is not an option.

QUESTION: Have you discussed at all during the day the alleged proposal of (inaudible) backed by forcible entry to specific targeted facilities if the Iraqis don t comply with these requirements, and do you have any views on such a proposal?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I m not sure where the proposal comes from and if it is a proposal. It s certainly an idea that is out there and some commentators have mentioned it, but it did not come up in any of my discussions today. We were focusing on the obligations that Iraq has; we were focusing on weapons of mass destruction, the threat that they present to the civilized world; and what was the civilized world, in the form of the United Nations and the rest of the international community, going to do about it.

QUESTION: Mr Secretary, you used the word multilateral views as expressed in the United Nations Security Council, and after some of your meetings today, some of your counterparts came out and said that they do not support U.S. unilateral action, but would support some kind of multilateral approach to deal with the problem of Iraq. As you talk about multilateral views, do you think that the Bush administration will take a multilateral approach in dealing with the Iraqi problem, such as the UN or any other international body?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President made it clear today that he has every intention of consulting widely with Congress, with the American people of course, and with our friends and allies and with the UN. He at the same time made it clear that we preserve all of our options to do what we believe is necessary to deal with this problem. I think to pigeonhole it as multilateral or unilateral what we re trying to do now is to make sure that the world understands the threat as clearly as we believe it should understand this threat, because it is a real one. We cannot allow the international community to be thwarted in this effort to require Iraq to comply with the obligations it entered into at the end of the Gulf War and for a number of years thereafter.

QUESTION: Mr Secretary, I m still a little a confused, and perhaps that s deliberate in terms of the inspections. Given the record of the last 11 years the cat and mouse game that you ve just described is there sort of scenario or any plan that you can see that the inspectors could get back in there and actually do their job?

SECRETARY POWELL: As you know, the United States' position has been that the inspectors should go back in. That s the President s position. But they cannot go back in and be dealt with the way they were dealt with say, in 1996/7/8. So they will have to go back in, if they go back in, with a clear understanding that they have to be able to do their job, and that means that they have to be able to go wherever they believe it is necessary to go, whenever they feel it is appropriate to go, and see whoever they have to see to get to the bottom of this. Now, I think Dr. Blix has made this clear to the Iraqis, I think the Secretary General has made this clear to the Iraqis, and we ll just see what the next step is with respect to inspection regime whether there is going to be one or not. I don t want to prejudge it at this time.

Our position has been clear: inspectors should go back in. The President said so, reaffirmed that yesterday in his press conference when he was discussing this issue. But we also understand that they have been frustrated in the past. They accomplished quite a bit for a number of years, and slowly obstacles were put in their way so that they could not continue with their work. We cannot send them back in under the conditions that existed at the time they came out. But this is a matter for further discussion with the United Nations.

QUESTION: I just want to clarify what is the nature of the threat right now (inaudible) that it is different from a year ago? Is there some information that the government has that it hasn t yet felt the need to disclose to the public (inaudible) in the sense that people don t understand what makes the situation new and different at this moment?

SECRETARY POWELL: The first thing I would say is that what brings it center-stage is that we see this regime that continues to move in this direction of developing weapons of mass destruction. This is not in dispute we have never abandoned it, and the intelligence case is clear that they have weapons of mass destruction of one kind or another, and they are trying to develop more, and develop those that they do not yet have an operational capability for. That intention is clear. I think when the intelligence information is presented, everybody can see that they have not abandoned this, and they are continuing to pursue it with even greater vigor, and that should get our attention.

And this other point I would make before getting to the specifics of your question is that there is a fundamental problem with a regime such as Iraq, which entered into all of these obligations, which said they would not have any weapons of mass destructions or capability, and then claim they do not, when it is obvious they do. This is not something you can just turn your head and forget about or look away, and this President has made it clear at the very beginning of his administration that he would not look away. And so we have been examining this; we have had many meetings, we have had many discussions and we now believe it is time to take the case to the international community.

With respect to timeliness and with respect to the quality of the intelligence, Don Rumsfeld will be briefing some senators today, I believe, in Washington, and in the course of the weeks ahead in our testimony, and in both classified and unclassified ways, we will be presenting all the information we have, and allow the world to make its own judgment as to the nature of this regime and what this regime has been up to. And as you heard from Prime Minister Blair yesterday, they too plan to make available all the information they have.

QUESTION: I m interested in the whole question of regime change, and particularly what happens after the fact. How much thought have you given to how you would ensure a democratic and stable government in an area that has no history of anything like that, and how long are you willing to stay in, given that it has turned out to be a little more complicated than you thought in Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the President has not made any decision to go in, go anywhere, do anything yet. What he is doing now is consulting. But obviously, when one starts down a road such as this, you have to think through all the consequences, and you have to consider what would be required, and what the day after would look like. And it is not a simple matter.

There is not a tradition of democracy [there], but there are lots of places in the world today where there was no tradition of democracy ten years ago, but suddenly there is democracy; so it does not mean because it has not existed before, it cannot exist in the future. It can, and that has been demonstrated on a regular basis. The tradition that the Iraqi people have been suffering under for all these years is a tradition they will be willing to see pass into their history books, and let s see what democracy is all about.

But the President has not reached any conclusions or made any decisions yet that would trigger a more specific answer than that.

QUESTION: Mr Secretary, I am still a little confused by what the Administration (inaudible) on the UN inspection (inaudible) and what Vice President Cheney (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: The President s (inaudible) and he said inspectors should go back in. It s been his policy ever since I think he first articulated that directly in January, and he has continued with it. There is no question that one should be skeptical about any inspection regime, and I think I have expressed skepticism about it. Although I think it is a step that the UN will have to consider -- whether or not they could get them back in -- as a way of getting the UN to coalesce around any subsequent action if the inspectors don t get back in. I think both Secretary Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney have expressed their skepticism as I said yesterday with great vividness. It is an open question as to whether or not an inspection regime could work or could really find everything that s happening within that society.

So what we have all been saying, both Vice President Cheney and Secretary Rumsfeld and myself, is that we should not see inspections standing alone, if we can get some acceptable regime going, as the be-all and end-all of the problem. We will have to make a judgment that goes well beyond what inspectors (inaudible) as to whether or not this regime, or the successor regime of Saddam Hussein, has complied with the obligations Iraq has under the various resolutions.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, can you envision a situation at this point where Iraq would allow unfettered inspections and use of force would not be possible, and he would live up to his UN obligations? Under what scenario do you see that happening?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not going to (inaudible) the course of action that the Iraqis might take I am not going to speculate on their behalf. I think they should be sitting there recognizing that things are changing, that the whole world is now seized with this problem. It s been the only story for the past several weeks, if not longer. The whole world is seized with this problem. The President of the United States said today he is taking it to the American people, taking it to the Congress, taking it to the international community, taking it to the United Nations, and every meeting, every grouping that takes place now discusses this issue. I think what we have done is make it clear that we cannot continue in this manner; that it is no longer an option to do nothing about the criminal actions of this government, this regime; for the Iraqi regime not to comply with the UN resolutions or to satisfy its obligations under those resolutions. Now what they are going to do about it remains to be seen, and I don t want to speculate on what they might or might not do and what the community might do in response.

QUESTION: When you talk about all the options remaining on the table, I ve been hearing a chorus from other leaders that the United States should look at some sort of multinational approach in leading with Iraq or going through the UN. Are you saying that the United States still reserves its right to unilateral action toward Iraq regardless --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, the United States reserves its right to do whatever it feels it has to do to protect its security and to protect the American people. At the same time, the President has said he is a patient person and he is consulting widely with the Congress, with the American people, and with the international community as to what we should do; because this is an affront, not just against the United States, but against the whole civilized world, that in this day and age a man like that, and a regime like that which has been placed under these restrictions by the United Nations over a period of years has not complied with them and believes that it can do so with impunity. That is something that is of concern to us unilaterally, and we believe it should be of concern to all of the international community multilaterally.

QUESTION: Could you address the criticism raised that the United States isn t really serious about inspections because whether or not they go forward and whether or not they find anything, regime change will remain the bottom line principal goal of the Bush administration?

SECRETARY POWELL: First things first. The President has said "let the inspectors back in". We believe that regime change would benefit the Iraqi people, benefit the region, benefit the world. That was a policy that was decided upon as United States government policy in late 1997-98 because of Iraq s demonstrated unwillingness to comply with the resolutions. And now it is four years later and we continue to have that policy. That would be the quickest, cleanest solution, if the regime were to be changed. But there is an international community out there and there are these resolutions that are still present, and the United States will be consulting with our friends and allies about how best to move forward.


Released on September 5, 2002

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