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Powell IV: Journalists from UNSC Member Countries

Interview by Selected Print Journalists from UN Security Council Member Countries

Secretary Colin L. Powell Washington, DC November 4, 2002

(10:30 a.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a great pleasure to welcome you all here, and to make the most use of our time, I would just throw it to questions.

QUESTION: Thank you, sir. I guess my first question is, what is the deadline for the US for reaching a resolution in the Security Council? I mean, last week you said that it should be next week.

SECRETARY POWELL: Today's Monday. (Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no deadline or no cutoff, but obviously we just can't keep discussing and negotiating and debating. I think we are getting very close to the point where we will put forward a US resolution. I have been in intense conversations over the last several days with my colleagues in the Security Council and I think we are very close.

I think we are all united behind the need for a strong resolution, a resolution that makes clear Iraq's failure to comply with previous resolutions, that puts in place an exceptionally strong inspection regime so that Iraq cannot deceive it the way it did previously, and a clear understanding that if Iraq violates this resolution and fails to comply, then the Council has to take into immediate consideration what should be done about that, while the United States and other likeminded nations might make a judgment about what we might do about it if the Council chooses not to act.

Those elements have been there from the beginning and I think we have found a way to accommodate the concerns and items that have been presented to us by not only the Permanent Members of the Security Council, but we have been very sensitive to what the elected members also had to say to us, which is one reason we are having this session here today.

So it has taken a while. We are not into months yet, so I am okay with respect to my earlier statements of days and weeks but not months. But it will come to a head, I think, in the near future, but I don't have a deadline.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, if a resolution is agreed on on inspection in Iraq, what is the ideal US timeframe for Mr. Blix to report back to the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution will contain dates, a 30-day period -- if it passes -- we believe a 30-day period for the Iraqis to provide a declaration would be a useful way to get started to see whether they are serious. Then Dr. Blix has a timetable for how long it will take inspectors to get in. Dr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei have their timetables. So time will pass while the inspections are taking place, and that is one of the built-in requirements of the inspection regime. If you are going to have an inspection regime, then you have to give time for the inspectors to do their work.

But we will know very early on whether Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government plan to cooperate. We will know in short order, by the nature of the declaration they send in, if the Council passes such a requirement, and whether or not they are showing the level of cooperation that is appropriate or which would allow Dr. Blix and Mr. El Baradei to do their job.

So, yes, some can argue it will take months and months and months and months and months for the inspectors to look at everything they will want to look at, but we will know early on whether or not Iraq is intending to cooperate or not to cooperate. That is the real test for Iraq. Now, Iraq has made many moves since the 12th of September when the President gave his speech. Each one of the moves they made has constituted an attempt to tie the UN up in knots and to force the UN to play the same game that Iraq always wins at. And this time it is a strong resolution with a strong inspection regime and the possibility of consequences afterwards if Iraq violates. It will not just be another situation where Iraq lets the inspectors in and they can't do their job because of Iraqi actions. Iraq has to know that that will not be acceptable, and the international community should not accept it and I hope will not accept it, if that is the way Iraq decides to behave.

QUESTION: "Early on." Is that January?

SECRETARY POWELL: I said January about what?

QUESTION: "Early on." In your view, is that January?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'm not going to give you -- to do what?

QUESTION: To assess the seriousness of Saddam Hussein.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it would be within a few weeks after the resolution is passed. If Iraq says no, we're not going to cooperate, we're not going to give you a declaration, we're not going to let the inspectors in and starts to place all kinds of conditions on the UN resolution, then we would know in a very short period of time that Iraq is not planning to cooperate, and that would say something to the Security Council.

Once the inspectors go in, if they are allowed to go in under the conditions the UN dictates, not Iraq dictates, then it will take some time for the inspectors to determine whether or not Iraq is continuing to cooperate. It is a function of what the inspectors find or don't find.

You are trying to get me to say when there is a deadline to go to war. This is not a resolution for war. This is a resolution to try to resolve a crisis in international relations that has been put before the United Nations, not by the United States, but by Iraq. Everybody keeps pointing fingers at the international community and at the United States, when the person who is the perpetrator of this crime is Saddam Hussein and Iraq. It cannot be allowed to continue, and that is the strong point of view of the United States and I think it is the strong point of view of the United Nations. This can't continue this way. The United Nations simply cannot be dictated to this way by someone who is not obeying UN resolutions.

But whether it will lead to conflict or war that remains to be seen. That judgment, really, is in the hands of the UN, the United States, likeminded nations, and ultimately whether Iraq is going to come into compliance with international law or not.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I ask you who determines if there is to be a new material breach, and can the United States do that unilaterally?

And secondly, could I say, you know, arithmetically when the resolution is put to the Security Council, you need a majority of nine. What would you say to countries like Ireland and Mexico -- which would very much like a second resolution -- to convince them that one resolution is enough?

SECRETARY POWELL: The one resolution that we are working on now is not a resolution that forces the UN to take military action in the presence of an Iraqi violation. Ireland, Mexico, a number of other nations in the Security Council -- France, China, Russia, others -- wanted an opportunity for the Security Council to debate what the international community or what the Security Council should do in the presence of Iraqi violation.

The resolution that we have been working on does that. It says that if there is a continued show of intransigence on the part of Iraq and the inspectors are unable to do their job, this gets referred to the Council for the Council to discuss and debate. The Council may choose to pass another resolution. The United States, as part of the Council, would participate in that debate.

But we had to structure the resolution in a way that while this process is ongoing, the United States is not handcuffed so that if, at the end of whatever the Security Council decides to do, or in the process, if it looks like the Security Council will not choose to act, the United States is not handcuffed if the United States feels that, with other likeminded nations, action is required. This is not an unprecedented scenario. Kosovo happened this way when the United States and likeminded nations believed it was necessary to act in the presence of this emergency.

The question of what triggers that is one of the items that is being discussed now. We believe that Iraq now is in material breach, has been in material breach. So material breach is there. It exists now. We also believe that there is a precedent for determining a new material breach or a future material breach. If you look at UN Resolution 707 from 1991, it says in the presence at that time of Iraqi intransigence that if Iraq fails to provide information or if Iraq does not comply, that is a fact that constitutes a material breach. It's 11 years old.

We think that is not a bad precedent, but we will have to discuss with our colleagues how best to deal with this question. It is one of the remaining questions, as you all know, on what constitutes a new material breach, and is that an immediate trigger or is that just send it to the Council for discussion.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, France, Germany and Russia appear to have put up far more resistance than the United States expected. Does the US look worse after going through this experience?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. Everybody was concerned about this issue over the summer and wondering what the United States was going to do. There are all sorts of speculations about the position of the United States. We heard lots of commentary about unilateralism, about going off on our own, about "cowboyism." What President Bush did was he strode to the lectern at the United Nations 57th General Assembly and he presented the case, and he asked the major multilateral organization of the world, whose resolutions have been steadfastly ignored by Iraq, a country that invades its own neighbors and gasses its own people, and he put the problem to them.

Now, there have been a number of nations who feel differently about the seriousness of the problem or what should be done about the problem, and we have been in discussion with those. You have touched on several. Germany has a view that says yes, this is all very bad but we don't think it warrants military action under any circumstances that we can see. Other nations have said it may warrant military options, but only if the Council convenes again to consider it and make a decision at that point.

We have tried to accommodate all those positions and I think we have in the resolution that we are working on now and hopefully coming to closure on now. But I don't think we look any worse off. I think we look better off, having taken this issue to the United Nations and reminding everybody of the nature of this regime, what this regime has done, what it is about, and that it is a call for unified action.

And, frankly, if the UN doesn't step up to its responsibilities in this regard, I think it is the UN that will look bad, not the United States.

But, you know, we understand that every nation, and every nation represented here by its correspondents, is a sovereign nation with its own parliament, its own legislature, its own elected head of the state and government, its own foreign minister. I have spent an enormous amount of time, up until to ten minutes before my daughter's wedding on Saturday -- the phone was only shut down when I started down the aisle -- I have spent an enormous amount of time working with all of my colleagues in the international community to listen, to understand, to build bridges between different positions.

So I think we have demonstrated that we do have a high regard for the opinion of other nations. Even when there is strong disagreement, we have high regard for the friends that we have around the world and their opinions. We try to accommodate those opinions, but, at the same time, we hope that our friends will listen to our views as well and try to accommodate our views. There will be occasions when, on matters of principle, we might have to move in two directions. This is a case where I think the international community is coming together.

QUESTION: My question is what is the scenario for a post-Iraq and is the US perceiving some kind of prolonged occupation, just like in Japan?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States has made no decision for war, which has to be the trigger for the your question. Should conflict come and the only way this can be resolved is through conflict, we have given considerable thought to what should come afterwards because if a conflict comes, it must involve, then, the removal of the regime because the regime simply will not respond to its obligations to the UN.

And after regime removal, the United States or any group of nations that have gone in, or the UN, if it has gone in under Chapter 7, has an obligation to help the people of Iraq liberate themselves and put in place a better government. There are many models that people are looking at. No model has been settled on because there is no war that has been decided upon.

But we have come to the clear decision within the United States that should it come to this, we would have an obligation to help the people of Iraq put in place a new government representative of the people and in a way that does not destabilize the region. We have considerable experience and considerable success in having done this a number of times over the past 50 or 60 years with considerable success.

QUESTION: Sir, in the case of Mexico -- and of course I have to ask you about Mexico -- there is no immigration agreement. There is a problem with water and the Fox government defers with the Bush Administration on the possible solution.

I think, they are saying, of course, they want to get to an agreement, they don't want to vote against, but can you tell us what is the future you see for the bilateral relationship?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the bilateral relationship is strong now and will remain strong in the future. With respect to Iraq, I had two conversations with Foreign Secretary Castaneda -- Richard [Boucher] will correct me if I have gotten them wrong, but I think I spoke to him both Friday and Saturday. President Fox and President Bush stay in close touch on this matter.

Mexico, a sovereign nation, will have to make its own choice and its own decision with respect to the Iraq resolution. I hope the resolution that we will be putting forward is one that Mexico will find that it can support.

With respect to the other issues, water and migration, those are two difficult issues. President Bush reaffirmed to President Fox weekend before last that we would continue to work on migration issues -- the same commitment that they had made at their first meeting in Oaxaca in February of 2001.

It has become a more difficult issue in light of what happened on 9/11 and the United States needed a pause -- time -- to take a look at everything that is going on inside our country with respect to visas, with respect to border control and things of that nature. We have made progress with both Canada and with Mexico. So we remain committed to immigration reform, remain committed to safe travel back and forth across our border and minimizing the risk to Mexicans who come into our country. We remain committed to find a way to move forward with worker access and with regularization and all the other migration issues.

The water issue is a difficult one. We had meetings again last week on it and we hope that we will find a way to resolve this disagreement. We still believe that Mexico needs to make good on its obligation under the 1944 treaty, and we're working with -- I will see Foreign Secretary Castaneda later this month to continue this dialogue.


SECRETARY POWELL: It is a Binational Commission meeting.

QUESTION: Oh, yes. In Mexico.


QUESTION: So you are going there?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have every intention of going there. I never know what will happen, but yes.

QUESTION: And so that I just make sure about the immigration issue, as you know, if this is not done, not only the negotiations between two governments but if it doesn't go to Congress next year and is passed, 2004 is an election year and not good sign.

SECRETARY POWELL: 2003 and 2004 are election years.

QUESTION: Well, yes, so it's going to be very hard. Do you think it's going to be happening?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't predict it because it is an exceptionally complex issue. I spend an enormous amount of my time now on immigration and visa issues, not only with Mexico, but also with Canada and a number of Muslim countries. But I can't give you a prediction as to whether or not our Congress will be in a position to deal with the issues.

You saw how much trouble we had with 245(i) this year, which should have been easy.


SECRETARY POWELL: A lot will depend on what happens tomorrow.

QUESTION: And who wins?


QUESTION: In Congress?


QUESTION: But then, if Democrats win, maybe it's easier, or not?

SECRETARY POWELL: You think I'm going to answer that question?



QUESTION: So that I can answer.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, you pick the question. I pick the answer.

I think that there is an understanding in the United States political system that we have to do something about migration. We want Mexicans to come here in safety. They contribute to our economy. We contribute to their welfare and we contribute to the Mexican economy.

We want to do it in a way that Mexicans who work here legally feel free to go home, come back, go home, come back. We want to do it in a way that helps the Mexican economy so that ultimately the Mexican economy, by growing, will solve the immigration problem. Mexicans don't come --

QUESTION: That's long term.

SECRETARY POWELL: It is a long term. But it is also influenced by the demographic data in Mexico, where the size of population needing these kinds of jobs will be declining over the next 10 or 12 years.

So the growth of the Mexican economy, proper immigration policies, and the demographics of Mexico all lead to solutions to this problem in the not too distant future.

QUESTION: (Cross-talk) -- that you have in Mexico somebody here.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I mentioned -- I talked about regularization. We have to deal with this population. Regularization is part of it, which is dealing with the illegals who are here, or the undocumented who are here, is a part of the process we have to work through.

QUESTION: Yes, I wanted to get back to this question of -- on the important question of regional stability, Mr. Secretary, which you raised. We had elections yesterday in Turkey with the election of an Islamist party. You have the Saudi Foreign Minister's statement saying that there will be no US troops on Saudi soil. And you've got developments in Israel with the emergence of an extremely -- a narrow right-wing coalition, the loss of the Labor Party there.

So how do you maintain, you know, all these portents are not very good for regional stability in the event of a war.

SECRETARY POWELL: I am pleased that the initial statements coming from the AKP -- the party that did the best in the Turkish elections -- are rather forthcoming and positive with respect to economic reform. To some extent, this election will clarify the political situation in Turkey. The fact that the party has an Islamic base to it in and of itself does not mean that it will be anti-American in any way. In fact, the initial indication we get is that the new party, which will form the new government, understands the importance of a good relationship with the United States.

The Saudi Foreign Minister's statement -- we will wait to see whether he adds anything to that or clarifies it.

The question, really, at this point is moot because we have not asked them for the use of bases. There is not yet a UN resolution, nor is there anything that has triggered a military operation that would require us to ask for the use of their bases or for the use of their forces at this time.

We are using their bases now. We have Americans and bases throughout that part of the world and we have good relations with the Saudis. So we will wait to see whether there is or is not a need. We hope there is not a need because we are hoping to resolve this situation peacefully.

QUESTION: And on Israel?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I'm sorry. Israel. We will also wait to see. It's not clear --

QUESTION: But how do you put pressure on a government with Netanyahu and Sharon to move this process along?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Netanyahu -- I don't think I have heard his answer yet so I don't think I will speculate on the nature of this government because it apparently is still being formed and it is not clear. I just think it is premature for me to comment because I don't believe Mr. Netanyahu has yet joined the government.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, could I go back to -- could you talk us through the timetable on Iraq? I understood that the 30 days was flexible and that you might give longer to Iraq to come up with a full list of their --

SECRETARY POWELL: There is an idea that -- 30 days was the original idea there. There are some ideas that for some parts of their holdings they may need more time. That hasn't been decided. Right now, 30 days is the period that we have in our resolution for them to declare what it is they have.

QUESTION: And then after 30 days, what happens?

SECRETARY POWELL: After 30 days, the declaration comes in and in that 30-day period, Dr. Blix and Mr. Baradei have the opportunity to start preparing themselves. But if the declaration comes in and it seems to be a declaration that we should find forthcoming and in evidence of cooperation, then Dr. Blix is prepared to start inspections.

But I would rather not answer for Dr. Blix and how -- the timelines and whatnot -- because that really is his portfolio, not mine.

QUESTION: So if there's going to be a war, it's not going to be this year?

SECRETARY POWELL: Everybody keeps looking for a war. We keep looking for peace. I know that is the question on the minds of your readers, but the United States is trying to put forward a resolution that will find a peaceful solution. The President has said this on many occasions. We will see whether or not we will have war and peace based on what Iraq does or does not do.

QUESTION: This question concerns Africa. I think it is a general belief now that the United States doesn't appear to be paying sufficient attention to Africa, enormous trauma to Africa, but I believe there's this feeling out there that even though what actually turns out to happen in Afghanistan had manifested itself in Africa a lot earlier. I'm asking this because Cameroon recently went through legislative elections, which were considered flawed, and when I spoke with Secretary Kansteiner he didn't appear to remember that there had been elections in Cameroon. Cameroon is preparing for presidential elections, I think next year or after next year, and Nigeria is also preparing for elections.

I just wanted to know what the State Department is doing to make sure that the kind of irregularities that accompanied the elections in Africa do not take place at, or to everyone I trust, I just want to be sure that something is decided.

SECRETARY POWELL: We watch elections in all parts of the world to see whether they are flawed or not. I mean, when we saw what happened in Zimbabwe recently, it was the United States that said this is a flawed election. We call these elections the way we see them. A number of other people were prepared to sort of ignore what Mr. Mugabe has been doing. So we will speak out on elections as they occur. We'll try to help people conduct free and fair elections.

We support those international institutions, some of them American-based, the National Democratic Institution and the Republican Institution. We support the work of President Carter, who has played such a meaningful role. You may know from my own history that I was Deputy Chairman of the delegation that supervised the Nigerian elections several years ago. I have also supervised elections in Jamaica. So I have a commitment to free and fair elections and we will always comment on them and try to see that they are free and fair, and when they are not free and fair, we say so.

With respect to our policies in Africa, we have done a lot that perhaps we haven't gotten sufficient acknowledgment of. The President expressed his commitment to the African Growth and Opportunity Act and, in fact, this week I am speaking to an AGOA business group on that subject. And the President -- and I expect he will be able to attend the AGOA seminar in January.

QUESTION: Right. If I put in --

SECRETARY POWELL: Allow me, if I may, because this comes up a great deal. I went to the Johannesburg Summit on Sustainable Development and we put forward a number of interesting ideas. We put forward the concept of public-private partnerships. I was booed by 12 Americans, but otherwise the thousand delegates seemed to appreciate the role played by the United States.

I went from there to Gabon, where the United States committed $50 million, something of that order, on preserving tropical forests, and I visited one with my colleagues to show the United States' support for this. Mr. Kansteiner and Assistant Secretary Turner have been back to do more with respect to this ecological and environmental triumph, frankly, on the part of Gabon and the other Congo Basin countries.

The United States has announced the Millennium Challenge Account, which will benefit Africa enormously -- $5 billion in new money every single year, beginning in about three years -- and I suspect that African countries will have the greatest claim on that money. For those nations that practice good governance, good elections, are committed to democracy and committed to economic reform, I will have, the President will have, the US will provide $5 billion a year to help them with infrastructure development, on education, on training, roads, clean water -- all of the things that help a nation begin to come up with a sustainable development program.

We have been deeply involved in the Sudan, and I think with some results to show for it. Senator Danforth was the President's Special Emissary and we now have some peace talks underway.

So Africa is a continent of importance to the United States. I have been there twice. I expect to go again in January. And we will continue to remain involved in Africa, even though occasionally we get distracted by things like Iraq.

With respect to the debate between Cameroon and Nigeria, we support the decision that was made by the International Court of Justice recently and we are encouraging the Nigerians to meet the commitment they made to accept the judgment of the Court with respect to the peninsula.

QUESTION: I just wanted to say that we -- the African Correspondents Association, of which I'm president, has sent a request to interview the President before his trip to Africa.

MR. BOUCHER: I'll talk to you about that.

SECRETARY POWELL: See, he went into advertising now.


QUESTION: Okay, I have one more question that just came up to me. You had the experience of building a coalition in the United Nations last time. What's the difference this time? Why isn't it so easy? Or was it easy?

SECRETARY POWELL: Last time we had something that was a little clearer in the minds of the world. We had an invasion. We had a blatant, unmistakable invasion. There they were. The Iraqi army was sitting in Kuwait, poised to go into Saudi Arabia. It was something that the international community rallied to immediately.

Eleven years later, here we have a somewhat different situation. We have 11 years worth of violation of resolutions. But I think what we are now seeing is a coalition is forming, not necessarily a coalition for war, but a coalition for peace, a coalition that understands that peace will only come in this part of the world if Iraq is disarmed, and a coalition that is saying to Iraq you have violated your obligations and it cannot be tolerated.

So I hope this coalition forms again. It is a different coalition than the one that we created 12 years ago with respect to military action, and hopefully it will signal the same

-- it will give the same sort of clear political signal to Iraq that their actions will no longer be tolerated.

Thank you very much.


Released on November 5, 2002

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