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Powell IV With Luba Rizova of BTV (Bulgarian TV)

Interview With Luba Rizova of BTV (Bulgarian TV)

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Sheraton Hotel
Sofia, Bulgaria
December 7, 2004

QUESTION: Mr. Powell, we are honored with this opportunity to be with you. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

QUESTION: What are your impressions of the big meetings here in Sofia? Don't you think that these discussions and goodwill in such broad venues like OSCE meetings here are not so valuable in the time of war and terrorism?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I think they are valuable, especially in time of terrorism, in time of war. It's an opportunity for fifty-five nations to come together and talk about matters of war and peace.

Remember that the origin of this meeting goes back to 1975, the Helsinki Final Act, and people said what good was the Helsinki Final Act? All they did was talk about human rights but the Soviet Union was still there. But talking about human rights and showing to the people of the Soviet Union that their rights counted, ultimately helped bring about fundamental and historic changes the Soviet Union. The same thing here in the OSCE. Today, we talked about the desires of the people of Ukraine to have free, fair, open elections; and OSCE played a role in that. OSCE played a role in the inauguration of President Karzai today in Afghanistan by participating in observing the election of President Karzai.

So OSCE has an important role to play. Sometimes it looks like just a bunch of ministers talking, but the work of this organization is very important. And I congratulate Bulgaria for their term as Chairman in Office, as is called, the head of the OSCE. They have done a very good job. And Foreign Minister Passy has been a very good chairman, and he ran a very good meeting. This is a major conference for a country like Bulgaria to put on, and they did an excellent job.

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QUESTION: And what is your vision for the future in Iraq? What do you think about the elections will be held there? Can you tell us how long coalition troops will need to be stationed in the area?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer the question as to how long troops will need to be stationed in the area, but they'll need to be there until Iraqi forces are strong enough to protect the country from terrorists and from an insurgency.

But with respect to the future of Iraq, we are seeing free elections in Ukraine, we are seeing free elections in Afghanistan, that's what we want for Iraq. And Iraq is scheduled to have free elections on the 30th of January of next year. And we're all working toward that end, so the people of Iraq can speak out on how they wish to be led and how they wish to be governed. They want to be governed by people they select, not by people who set off car bombs or people who murder innocent civilians.

QUESTION: Our country, which was recognized as one of America's most loyal partners. America has also been the target of negative press and publicity. We have lost several Bulgarian soldiers in Karbala. And the entire country was shocked by the monstrous murder of two Bulgarian drivers. People in Bulgaria have been saying that "this is not our war" and who will be taking care of interest of Bulgaria? Iraq's debt to Bulgaria is 1.7 billion dollars. Can we expect some aid in retrieving that debt?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Bulgarian people can be very proud of the fact that in this new environment that we are in, they are willing to step forward and make sacrifices and put the lives of your soldiers, unfortunately but true, at risk and go to places like Afghanistan and Iraq and other places to help other people far away from Bulgaria achieve the kind of freedoms that Bulgaria has now. But I think this is a noble effort. And I congratulate Bulgaria for standing fast, even when they had a terrible situation like the beheading of the two drivers.

It seems to me that Bulgaria will benefit from this in the long run. It shows it is a faithful partner in a bilateral relationship with the United States, but is now a partner in broader alliances such as NATO and soon, hopefully, the European Union. And so Bulgaria, all Bulgarians, should be proud that you claim this role on the world stage.

And I want to offer my sincerest sympathy and condolences to the families of the Bulgarians who lost their lives. Freedom does not come cheaply, it always costs lives. It costs lives of brave young men and women who are willing to go and serve the cause of freedom; and I don't think the Iraqi people will ever forget that.

We know that there is a debt issue of $1.7 billion dollars, and we hope that that can be resolved with the Iraqi government, once it becomes stabilized and once it is able to run as a normal government - after the elections and when it puts in place a permanent government at the end of 2005. We know how important that debt issue is to the Bulgarian government.

QUESTION: People here are also very keen to know whether the US will deploy military bases in Bulgaria?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are certainly examining that. As you know we have been doing some training in Bulgaria, and I expect that our military will doing more training in Bulgaria. With respect to how much presence we will actually have, and whether it will be on a temporary basis as we train units, or something a little more permanent, all these matters are being looked at by our Department of Defense in consultation with your Ministry of Defense. I used to be able to comment more definitively on military matters, but I am not in the Army anymore.

QUESTION: You were a professional soldier for thirty-five years. The highest-ranking officer in the military. What advice could you give to the Bulgarian authorities because we are currently facing a number of difficulties in reforming our army?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have been through many reform efforts in the American army. We reformed and transformed ourselves after Vietnam, and we have done it in recent years. What I would say to Bulgarian military leaders is that first and foremost, there is no substitute for well-trained professional soldiers. Whatever you do, invest in the soldier. Make sure they get the best training, the best equipment and their families are taken care of.

Secondly, invest in modern technology- communications and intelligence systems - so that the solders have the best opportunity and greatest advantage on the battlefield. Other than that, I have confidence in Bulgarian military leaders, working with their NATO colleagues, to rationalize defense expenditures and make sure that Bulgaria is able to put in the field a capable military force as needed. We don't want the Bulgarian armed forces to look just like the American armed forces. You have different needs. And that is the part of a great alliance - you can perhaps perform specialized military functions within that alliance.

QUESTION: What are the challenges and the future opportunities for the Asian Arab region? Iraq is still burning, Osama on the run and still alive, Israeli-Palestinian conflict after Arafat's death and the dangers that could come out from Saudi Arabia and North Korea?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are still dangers in the world, and you touched on some of them. Osama bin Laden may be on the run, but President Karzai is in the palace at Kabul, so the Afghan people are not on the run, even though Osama bin Laden is on the run. He will eventually be caught. And the terrorist threat and Taliban threat in Afghanistan is being dealt with. The same thing will happen in Iraq as we bring this insurgency under control.

In the post-Arafat period we have already taken steps to work with the Israelis and Palestinians to move this process forward with an election of a new Palestinian president on the ninth of January. I was in the region just ten days ago to consult with Palestinian and Israeli leaders, and we have a new moment of opportunity.

North Korea and Iran have been pursuing nuclear weapons programs; it is not in their interests; it will not give them any particular advantage on the world stage. We will not be sacred by their programs or forced into doing anything that is against our interests. We will continue to mobilize the international community to apply pressure on Iran and North Korea to abandon those weapons programs. This is a case where the United States is acting multilaterally. We're working with our friends and allies, just as people encourage us to do, and many people think we never do. But it's the normal way we take care of these kinds of problems. Working with our European Union friends on Iran, working with our Asian friends on North Korea, and of course working with our Bulgarian friends in the Balkans and in Afghanistan and in Iraq.

QUESTION: Only one personal question. Why would such a person such as yourself, a successful foreign minister, with such a high reputation, resign after successful re-election of your government?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have been in this position for four years, and in our system, it is quite common for a president entering a second term to change members of his cabinet. So the president and I discussed it, and we thought this was an appropriate time for me to make a change, we agreed. Dr. Condi Rice, who will be replacing me, knows Europe well, knows all the personalities in Europe, and has been very intimately involved in all that we have done. So I don't think Europeans will see much change in the president's commitment to Europe and his goal of making sure that Europe is a place that is whole, free, at peace, stable and economically thriving.

QUESTION: One last question, our Bulgarian medics in Libya, are you optimistic for the release?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that I can be optimistic. I can say that we have been pressing the Libyans at every opportunity. We believe they should be released. We believe they have suffered long enough. We continue to encourage the Libyans to deal with this matter. We have the greatest sympathy for the nurses and greatest sympathy for their families. And it is a matter of constant dialogue between myself and Foreign Minister Passy and with the prime minister and the president.

QUESTION: Thank you very much.




Released on December 7, 2004

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