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Powell participates in MTV global forum

Powell fielded questions from seven different countries.
Powell fielded questions from seven different countries.  

From Andrea Koppel and Elise Labott

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell answered questions Thursday from youth around the world in an MTV global forum.

Powell joined a Washington studio audience connected with remote sites at MTV studios in London; Moscow; New Delhi; Milan, Italy; Cairo, Egypt; and Sao Paulo, Brazil. He was asked questions on issues such as the global war on terrorism, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the drug war in Colombia, and the global AIDS crisis.

The music network, known for its cutting-edge social programming, asked after September 11 that the Bush administration speak to its global audience. Powell was the one who stepped up to the plate.

One young woman in London kicked off a 90-minute session of tough questioning by asking Powell how it felt to represent a country perceived as the "satan of contemporary politics."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell appears on a worldwide broadcast on the music video network MTV. CNN's Andrea Koppel reports (February 13)

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Powell rejected the characterization and called America the "great protector."

"The United States presents a value system to the world that is based on democracy, based on economic freedom, based on individual rights for men and women," Powell said. "I think that is what makes us such a draw for nations around the world. People come to the United States to be educated, to become Americans. We are a country of countries and we touch every country, and every country in world touches us."

Powell also talked about the U.S.-led war against terrorism, defining "evil as evil," and said that while the U.S. government doesn't have immediate plans to go to war with any country, it is necessary to defend the American people. He also defended U.S. evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the September 11 attacks and the military campaign against Afghanistan.

He denied that the United States disrespects Muslims and is engaged in a war against Islam.

"We went to Afghanistan to protect Muslims," he said. "We went to Kuwait to protect Muslims and give Kuwait back to the Kuwaiti government. And when you look at what we did in Kosovo, we went to protect Albanian Muslims, so I think the United States has demonstrated through the openness of our actions ... we are a respecter of all faiths."

Among those who asked questions was an Indian man who lost friends in the Kashmir dispute and a young Afghan man in New Delhi whose mother was killed by the Taliban when she tried to escape. He wanted to know why the United States ignored Afghanistan before September 11.

"We were slow," Powell admitted. But he said that while the United States "can't turn the clock back," it can help the Afghan people move forward by helping to rebuild the country.

Powell spoke with a young Palestinian woman in Cairo who wanted the right of return for Palestinian refugees, and an Israeli woman in London who wanted the United States to help frightened Israeli children feel safe.

Some of the participants wanted to know why the United States allowed thousands of Iraqis to suffer under U.N. sanctions -- an idea Powell disputed, saying it was Iraqi President Saddam Hussein who let his people starve while he built palaces and a dangerous weapons program.

Asked about his thoughts on the Catholic Church's policy against use of condoms, Powell laughed, but said young people should practice safe sex.

"You gotta protect yourself ... or you are putting your life at risk," he said.

Powell also was asked about being an African-American, and about his previous comments that he "wasn't all that black."

He said he is proud of his heritage, but while he is the secretary of state and black, he is not a "black secretary of state."

"That implies there is more than one," he said.

He also told his audience that if he could realize his dreams, so can the youth around the world.



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