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Secretary of State Colin Powell Discusses International Affairs

Aired May 14, 2001 - 09:45   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: CNN's State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel will be interviewing Secretary of State Colin Powell right here at the top of the hour.

She is going to ask about his first four months in office and about his future plans as well. And joining us now in a roundtable discussion about the secretary of state before we get to that interview is, in Washington, our Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno; and in London, CNN chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour; and also in London, Joshua Cooper Ramo. He is assistant managing editor of "Time" magazine.

And at this time, we would like to also welcome our international viewers, who are joining us on our sister network, CNN International.

All right, ladies first -- let's begin with you, Christiane Amanpour. What is it you expect to hear this morning from the secretary?

CHRISTIANE AMANPOUR, CNN CHIEF INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, it will be interesting to see how he addresses, obviously, the key foreign policy issues that the administration has already launched into in its early year. I think, let's just set the tone a little bit.

When we first asked officials in Europe, pundits, analysts, what they expected from the new Bush administration -- this is back in January before the inauguration -- many of them said the that they expect the administration to continue broadly the foreign policy set by previous administrations -- United States foreign policy.

They were also fairly pleased to hear President Bush saying that the United States would be humble, that it would not be an arrogant power dictating just because it was the only superpower. Well, in the intervening months, I think it's fair to say that many, many policy analysts, pundits and even government officials, both amongst allies and competitors, have expressed, if you like, some alarm at the -- what they consider some of the unilateral moves that the Bush administration has undertaken.

Almost every week, we have a new policy rolled out that, essentially, almost contradicts previous policy, whether it's on the environment or even on the issues of missile defense. And so there's a great sort of, if you like, questions here on how the Bush administration plans to continue. Will it consult, as it has said so many times now? And far from being humble, as I say, people here are saying -- or worrying that the United States has embarked on a series of unilateral moves.

And just as a postscript, some wits say, never in recent memory have they known a new U.S. administration which has succeeded in alienating or at least irritating so many foreign governments at the same time, whether allies or competitors -- Leon.

HARRIS: You have made some very interesting observations.

All right, let's maintain that European perspective. Let's go to Joshua now in our London bureau.

What is your view on all that?

JOSHUA COOPER RAMO, "TIME" LONDON: Well, I think Christiane is right. There has been a tremendous shift in rhetoric between administrations. And I think that has taken a lot of people by surprise by the sheer drama of this change in perspectives.

The other thing to keep in mind, and that I think it's important to press the secretary on, is that the Bush administration has been changing its policy. It's not been simply a matter of coming out and saying one thing and sticking to their guns regardless of what happens. Instead, they have been very aggressive to begin with. And then, you know, two or three days later, in some cases -- or a few weeks later, in other cases -- they have shifted movement.

And that has been confusing for people. On Korea policy, for instance, very early on, the administration called Kim Dae-jung to White -- Washington, sat him down in the White House, had a long conversation with him, saying they were going to slow down rapprochement between North and South Korea. And just last week, they were off on a different policy tack altogether, saying they were going to change their mind.

And so it's not simply a matter of them being assertive. The other problem they have had is that their policy perspective has changed. And that makes it very confusing for allies.

HARRIS: Frank Sesno in our Washington bureau, your view on all this?

FRANK SESNO, CNN WASHINGTON BUREAU CHIEF: Well, we're going to be hearing a number of things, I think, from the secretary of state today. He'll be asked, of course, about the situation in the Middle East, which has taken yet another violent turn in the last 24 hours.

We have five Palestinian policemen who have been killed, Yasser Arafat saying -- calling it awn assassination, saying it's a dirty crime and threatening that Israel will pay the price -- the Israelis saying their actions were justified and suggesting that these Palestinian police officers were not nearly in the benign act of policing, but were involved in major security issues. Foreign policy analysts here in Washington say there is a great danger -- and this plays off of what Christiane was saying a moment ago -- that there is a perception in the region and the world, a question as to what role the United States is playing. It is involved through its ambassador Martin Indyk overseas. But a big question to Colin Powell is: Is the United States going to raise its profile? What can be done to assuage some of the concerns about a wider war?

And that is something that we are hearing foreign policy analysts talk about and worry about increasingly in the region. That's not the only thing, of course, of urgency that's on the secretary of state's plate. There's the national missile defense plan that the administration has put forward. That's provoked a great consternation among many European allies and, of course, the Russians, although they're trying to speak in the most broad diplomatic language that they possibly can.

Also, there's the issue of China. What happens with that plane that's on the ground? The United States says it wants to fly it out. The Chinese say, forget it, you're not going to fly it out. A senior Chinese diplomat told us last week here at CNN that there is no way that that is going to happen. Should the administration crate it up, get it out of there, and move on?

These are some of the more immediate issues that are on the secretary of state's plate.

HARRIS: Let me ask you about that, Frank -- I want to stay with you on this particular point, since you did raise those issues. Is it clear that the secretary is on the same page with the president, or with the rest of the administration when it comes to his view of the world on those particular issues?

SESNO: No, actually not. The administration says that there is great unanimity internally, that every morning the national security adviser, the secretary of state, and the defense secretary have a phone call, at about 7:15 every morning, to make sure they're on the same page. But analysts say there are a number of things -- and we heard it just a moment ago in the comment that it does appear that this administration has changed positions, or at least the tone, on certain things -- in certain areas, in which there's a great question as to whether there's unanimity, or at least everybody singing from the same hymnal. National missile defense is a key issue, as is space-based defense. Is what the secretary of state's hearing, who's hearing things internationally, very different from what the defense secretary is hearing domestically? Do they agree?

HARRIS: We're going to take a break, but we will continue our discussion this morning, prior to this interview getting under way.

I believe that we have a shot of the room. There you see Andrea Koppel, our State Department correspondent, preparing to sit down with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) HARRIS: We are continuing our round table discussion as we wait for U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell to enter the room and begin his interview, in just a few moments, with our State Department correspondent Andrea Koppel.

In meantime, we continue our discussion with our Washington bureau chief Frank Sesno; our chief international correspondent Christiane Amanpour; and our guest this morning, Joshua Cooper Ramo, in London. He's assisting managing editor for "TIME" magazine.

Christiane, I want to begin with you in these final moments that we have before the interview this morning. One of the hot spots that flared up almost immediately after this administration took over was in the Middle East. You'd been there to report on what had happened in the Middle East. I'd like to know your views on how you see policy unfolding there, and where this administration has trodden the path.

AMANPOUR: Well, they've trodden the path by keeping a virtual hands-off policy. There's low-level representation from the United States in key areas, such as the Middle East, the Balkans -- given the Macedonia conflict right now -- and even in North Korea, where it was a European Union delegation that lead the diplomacy last week.

On the Middle East specifically, though, if you remember, last month Secretary of State Colin Powell condemned in very, very strong and uncompromising terms the incursion by Israeli forces into areas under Palestinian control. This has happened now several times since those, with absolutely no condemnation from the United States or other European governments. So it will be interesting to see whether Colin Powell condemns the Israeli military incursions into Palestinian- controlled territory, as well as, obviously, condemning terrorism from the Palestinian side.

It will be interesting to see whether the United States plans to step up its involvement in a high-profile manner in areas that have been traditionally diplomatically led by the United States in the last several years. I mentioned the Balkans, and the Middle East, obviously.

Just one word on Colin Powell, to follow up from what Frank Sesno was saying about whether they're all on the same page on foreign policy. Certainly, in the last few months, Colin Powell has emerged, in terms of what people overseas are thinking, as the sensible center, if you like, of U.S. foreign policy. They are, as I say, alarmed by some of the rhetoric that has come out of the Pentagon and the White House.

HARRIS: Joshua Cooper Ramo, there in London, let me ask you, from your perspective, what you've seen happen with the United States and its stature within the United Nations. All of the different ideas and the topics that we have talked about this morning seem to have perhaps combined to the United States almost having more of a diminished role in the United Nations. What's your view from there?

RAMO: I think, clearly, the United Nations' position for the United States is going to be much less significant in this administration than it was during the Clinton administration. The new ambassador who's headed to the United Nations is a career diplomat and a man with a great deal of experience, but is not at the level of Holbrooke or Albright, people who really had the core ear of the administration. So challenge number one is just going to be the fact that the United Nations is obviously much less important for this administration than it was for past administrations.

There is a secondary challenge, and one that's more difficult, but that hints at this fundamental challenge of arrogance that is being leveled against the administration, which is that to get things done at the United Nations requires consensus -- it requires a willingness to listen. And the one thing that this administration seems to be demonstrating over and over again is that it wants to do what it wants to do. When it wants to launch missile defense, it doesn't go on a worldwide listening tour to hear what our allies have to say; instead, it goes on a selling tour, and that doesn't work at the United Nations. Interestingly, that may turn out to be a problem in the policy areas outside the United Nations.

HARRIS: That's almost exactly the posture that President Bush said, at least when he was campaigning, that he did not want this administration to take.

Frank Sesno, let's wrap things up with you. Is it too early at this point to grade the effectiveness that Colin Powell is having or is going to have in this administration?

SESNO: I'm not going to be the one to pass that grade, but there are plenty of foreign analysts here in this town and elsewhere who are happy to issue a grade. And what the thoughtful analysts say, Leon, is that it's really too early, that on a number of major issues, the administration really has not laid out a definitive and strategic vision.

In the United States' relationship with Russia, for example, the administration has still not set up a summit date for really doing business with Vladimir Putin, although the president will be seeing him when he's in Europe. On the subject on China, a broad, more strategic approach, as opposed to the tactical ones that have been seen in the past, analysts say, still has not emerged. And they consider the subject of the energy policy that the administration is going to be articulating here in Washington this week in terms of how that fits with the rest of the world, and how that fits with environmental concerns, spinning from the Kyoto Protocol, which the administration walked away from not long ago. All those things are still pending, analysts say, so the grade so far for Powell is incomplete.

HARRIS: With that said, we will go ahead and prepare to listen and see what the secretary does have to say, but we would like to ask our round table members to stick around. We will talk after this discussion.

For now, let's go to Washington and CNN's Andrea Koppel.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN STATE DEPARTMENT CORRESPONDENT: I'm here in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department on the 8th floor, the very top floor. This is where official banquets are usually held, and I have the pleasure of speaking with the man who runs the building, Secretary of State Colin Powell. Thanks so much for joining us.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Good morning, Andrea. How are you?

KOPPEL: Very well, thank you.

I'd like to begin with what's happening right now in the Middle East. There were reports this morning of five Palestinian policemen who were shot dead by Israeli soldiers.

POWELL: I've seen those reports and it's very disturbing that the cycle of violence continues to go upward, and it just reinforces my view and the view of every leader in the world right now that we have got to do everything we can to get the cycle moving in the other direction. We keep appealing to both sides to be restrained, to not use violence as a way of solving the problems that exist in the region, and we continue to give that message in a very, very strong and positive voice.

KOPPEL: A couple of weeks back, you used the words "excessive" and "disproportionate" referring to Israeli incursions into the West Bank. Are you prepared to use those types of words today?

POWELL: We have regularly characterized things that we saw as excessive and disproportionate as excessive and disproportionate. I don't have the detail on today's actions, and there is some confusion as to what happened in this particular incident. But we will speak out to both sides, encouraging both of them to do everything they can to reduce the level of violence.

KOPPEL: Yasser Arafat said that the Israelis will pay a heavy price.

POWELL: Well, that kind of language I don't think is particularly helpful, especially during this time when we're celebrating -- Israel celebrating its anniversary. I think this should be a time for leaders on both sides to encourage restraint and to act as leaders and not encourage any forms of violence.

KOPPEL: Is he acting like a partner for peace?

POWELL: I think both parties should take this opportunity to speak in moderate terms and not to do anything which raises the level of tension in the region.

KOPPEL: How do you think the last seven-plus months of violence, the El-Aqsa Intifada, will affect your ability to get your new Iraq policy off the ground?

POWELL: Well, it's made it much more difficult. There is a great deal of concern in the region about what's happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis, but at the same time, we have continued to press to review our Iraq policy. The part that I'm most concerned about, and that is, arms control, arms control resolutions that the United Nations put into effect at the end of the Gulf War to keep the Iraqi regime from developing weapons of mass destruction.

We are reviewing those arms control systems to make sure that they really are directed at the weapons and not at civilian goods or things that the people of Iraq should have in order to protect their health, that gives them some opportunity for a better life.

And I'm having a bit of success, I think, with members of the United Nations and with nations in the region in restructuring those arms control systems in order to go directly at weapons of mass destruction, so that the Iraqi regime cannot blame the United States for hurting Iraqi civilians.

The danger in the region is the Iraqi regime continues to experiment with such weapons and try to develop such weapons to threaten the people of the regime, to threaten the children of the region. And the United Nations cannot be ignored in this regard. We must have compliance with our resolutions, and hopefully we can bring that coalition back together to insist that that is the case with the Iraqi regime.

KOPPEL: Well, in order to bring that coalition back together, you're going to need the support of Iraq's neighbors, many of whom who have publicly said that they don't want to talk about Iraq and about sanctions while the violence between the Israelis and Palestinians continued.

POWELL: There's no doubt that they do see a connection between the two, and that's why we are trying to solve the whole region's problems in a comprehensive way. You can't separate them out. But they do talk about Iraq. They are concerned about the kinds of weapons that Iraq is trying to develop. And the recent Arab summit showed that they are concerned, where Iraq did not prevail in its desire to get released from all of the obligations under U.N. resolutions.

KOPPEL: I'd like to talk with you about the other part of your Iraq policy, and that is regime change. Some of your colleagues over at the Pentagon have publicly stated that they think that the Iraqi opposition should not only be armed but should also be provided with U.S. air cover. Is that the direction in which the policy of this administration is headed?

POWELL: Well, we all believe -- I don't think any sensible person would not believe that the Iraqi people will be better off with a different regime. And as part of our policy review, we are not only looking at the arms control regime, we're looking at our no-fly zone activities and we're looking at regime change. How can we help the Iraqi people acquire a better system of government and leaders more committed to peace and the betterment of their people, rather than developing weapons of mass destruction. And so, all aspects of those policies are under review, and we haven't completed those reviews yet.

KOPPEL: So do you think that the Iraqi National Congress should be included as potential recipients of this type of...

POWELL: The Iraqi National Congress has support from the United States government, and they are undertaking some useful activities. But no judgment has been made as to how much more activity they might take that's part of the review.

KOPPEL: I'd like to move on to a meeting that you have at the end of the week with Igor Ivanov, the Russian foreign minister. I'm sure among the subjects you'll discuss is the upcoming summit between the two presidents. Do you think that perhaps you might push Mr. Ivanov to move up the summit date from later in the summer to when President Bush is in Europe in June?

POWELL: Well, Foreign Minister Ivanov and I have been in almost constant conversation for the last week, almost every day, although I missed him on the weekend -- he's traveling -- trying to find a convenient time for our two presidents to get together.

Both presidents, President Putin and President Bush, are anxious to get together. And Igor and I have it as our task to find a place and a convenient time for them to meet as soon as possible. It will certainly be no later than the G-7, G-8 meetings, and hopefully before then.

KOPPEL: You had a team of some of your folks and some of the Pentagon folks off in Moscow recently to talk about missile defense. Now at least publicly, the Russian response has been somewhat cool to your desire to move forward with missile defense, warning against unilaterally withdrawing from the ABM Treaty. Do you see that as theatrics? Or do you...

POWELL: It was not a surprising response. We went to consult with them not just about missile defense, but about the strategic framework that has guided the relationship between the two countries over these many, many years, to talk about strategic offensive weapons that we have and how to go to lower numbers; to talk about proliferation activities, counterproliferation, nonproliferation activities, and, yes, to also talk about how missile defense can add stability to the strategic equation, all within the context of the ABM Treaty.

And they heard our team, ably led by Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz and Deputy National Security Adviser Hadley. They heard our comments. The reaction is not surprising. And Foreign Minister Ivanov and I will continue those discussions later this week.

It's the beginning of a process of consultation, just as the president intended when he made his speech on the 1st of May.

KOPPEL: Does Moscow have right to be concerned that if it doesn't agree to amend the ABM Treaty or just to scrap it that the U.S. would unilaterally withdraw?

POWELL: Well, we have a treaty with Moscow, and they have all the rights embedded in such a treaty to stay with it or abrogate it, and we have the same rights. And so what we want to do is speak to the Russians about how we can move to a strategic framework, which might be a framework, might be another treaty. We're not sure what it is yet. We're not foreclosing any option.

But we clearly are of the belief and we want to push this belief that in the year 2001, we should look at new ways of examining the strategic situation between our two nations and the rest of the world and not just say because this treaty was signed in 1972 it can't possibly be changed or modified in any way.

So this is the beginning of a professional, responsible discussion between two nations who have a mutual interest in making sure that we bring down the level of offensive arms in the world and we take action to protect our populations against weapons of mass destruction that might come from nations that did not mean either of us well.

KOPPEL: So have you begun to discuss with the Russians language, perhaps, for a new treaty?

POWELL: Well, Minister Ivanov and I have had previous conversations. This will be the third time we're meeting, which shows that we are reaching out to the Russians. And I'm sure that this Friday, when he comes, then we'll have much more time than we've had in the past. We may well get into language. I don't know yet.

But I think we'll be talking more, in this meeting, philosophically. He's bringing his experts. I'll have my experts, other experts from the United States government. And I'll suspect we'll start out talking in general framework, philosophical terms and then start getting into the nitty-gritty of arms control treaties and where we might go from here.

KOPPEL: Mr. Secretary, I'm sure you can appreciate the fact that other countries watching a great country like the United States talk about the possibility of breaking a treaty could lead them to say, "Well, what's good for the goose is good for the gander. We'll break a treaty."

POWELL: Well, you haven't heard us say we're going to break a treaty. What you've heard us say is that the world has changed since this particular treaty was signed some years ago. And our partner in that treaty is now Russia. And we should discuss with Russia whether or not the treaty is still as relevant as it was 30 years ago, and there are different points of view on that.

But there is nothing peremptory about this. There is nothing unilateralist about this. There's nothing arrogant about it. I think a nation such as the United States, which has a leadership position in the world, should lead into the future and not be trapped by the past.

Russia is also a great nation, which is a leader on the world stage. And I hope they'll be willing to engage with us to see what makes sense for the 21st century.

KOPPEL: You mentioned arrogance. As you also know, there are a number of countries around the world -- not only countries like Russia and China, but also some of our closet allies in Europe -- who feel that the U.S. has been acting with arrogance, most recently exhibited with the vote at the U.N. Human Rights Commission, which you yourself said you were very angry about and shocked and what not.

Now the U.S. Congress, the House of Representatives last week voted to withhold next year's dues to the United Nations. Why not get tough with the U.N.?

POWELL: Well, I was very disturbed by the vote. I don't like losing a vote like that, especially the Human Rights Commission, when we are the leading proponent for human rights around the world. I think it was a bad vote, a short-sighted vote. And, yes, I was mad.

But I learned over the years you get mad and then you get over it and figure out what makes sense for the future. If we choose to, we can get back on that commission the next time there's a vote. We now know the kinds of things that are done. We don't trade votes, as other nations do. And frankly, we had a number of people who said they were going to vote for us, which at the end of day, it turned out they did not vote for us.

KOPPEL: Do you know who they were?

POWELL: Well, I have some speculation, but what's the point of going out and approaching it this way, and what's the point of saying to the United Nations, "We are so mad over this, that, unless you vote exactly the way we want you to vote next year, we're going to withhold money we owe you."

That seems to me not to be the best way to move forward. That seems to me to be a sign of the kind of arrogance that perhaps we should be avoiding.

I mean, we lost a vote. It's not the first vote we've ever lost in the United Nations. We win more than we lose. But it seems to me the proper reaction is to learn from that loss, figure out what have to do differently next year, continue to advocate for human rights, continue to be tough on it, whether people like it or not.

One of the problems we had is we were so tough in Geneva on human rights, I think we might have turned a few people off. Well, guess what? We're going to continue to be tough on human rights, and we'll be back.

But the way to take a loss of this nature, it seems to me, is to fight and come back and not to say we will not pay our dues unless you guarantee us that we will be voted back on next year. That doesn't seem to me the way a great nation, such as ours, should respond to this loss.

KOPPEL: The U.N. vote was only the most recent example of sort of a series of things that have happened in your less than four-month tenure, from the mid-air collision with China, the national missile defense dispute with the Russians. Do you see this as just a rough patch, or is this a reflection, do you think, of the Bush administration's foreign policy? POWELL: No, I don't think it should be seen in those terms. We've had a pretty good three-plus months. I mean, we've had a superb series of events here in our own hemisphere, with respect to President Bush's visit to Mexico with President Fox; the Summit of the Americas was a smashing success; we're moving forward on an aggressive trade agenda, promoting free trade; particularly the Summit of Americas with its commitment to democracy. This is all good.

We've had some problems. We've had some problems as a result of the incident with China over the airplane. We understand the nature of that difficulty. We'll get past this one.

KOPPEL: Are we going to get the plane back?

POWELL: I'm quite confident we will resolve this issue and get our airplane back. And we're in serious conversations with the Chinese. And we have major equities with the Chinese, and they have major equities with us. We also have difference with them, and they have differences with us.

But great nations can work together on things that they have in common, and they can continue to discuss those things they do not have in common.

So I think we've had a pretty good three and a half months, with respect to the promotion of free trade, with respect to democracy, with respect to events here in our hemisphere and the vision that President Bush has given to this hemisphere. And now, we've got some conferences coming up in Europe with our European friends.

Everybody knew that this president was going to be committed to seeking a new strategic framework. And he has shown leadership. But when you show leadership you sometimes get hit back. People will criticize you for not doing something and then criticize you when you do something.

But he has a pretty good idea of where he's going. He's going to lead, and we're going to help him lead.

And we're going to give him strong views, and he's the leader, and we're going to execute a foreign policy the American people are going to be proud of.

KOPPEL: One area where you yourself, sir, were, if not criticized, you certainly had to take a step back was on the announcement that you made a couple of months ago on North Korea policy. You said that the Bush administration was going to re-engage with the North and that you were going to pick up from where the Clinton administration had left off. Then the next day, you walked it back. What happened?

POWELL: Well, the president said at his meeting with President Kim Dae-jung that we were going to re-engage with North Korea and he was supporting the efforts of President Kim Dae-jung and his sunshine policy. Where we are not is ready to engage yet because we're conducting our policy review, and the only thing that happened that day was that, as I have kidded others in saying, I got a little too far forward on my skis. And so, we're not completed with our policy review.

And as Deputy Secretary of State Armitage said to our friends in Asia last week in a reassuring way, when our policy review is finished and we have a good understanding of what monitoring and verification regime would be necessary to make sure we know what the North Koreans might or may not be doing, then we'll re-engage. But it'll be at a time and a place of our choosing and after our policy review is completed. But we understand the importance of engaging, in due course, at the appropriate time with North Korea.

KOPPEL: We have just a couple of minutes left, so I'd like to tick through my remaining questions here very quickly. The E.U. today announced that it was going to establish diplomatic relations with North Korea, your reaction?

POWELL: Well, that's a choice for the E.U. to make. I don't have anything critical to say about it. I've been getting steady reports from my E.U. colleagues as they have engaged with the North Koreans. It's their choice.

KOPPEL: On China, with the spy plane, the Chinese have said that the U.S. is not going to be allowed to fly it out. But Chinese officials have told CNN, in fact, that if you were to disassemble it and ship it out, you could do that.

POWELL: We're in negotiations with the Chinese now. Our embassy has done a brilliant job in, frankly, carrying the negotiation with the Chinese since the beginning of this incident. And I'm quite sure that in the next few days, we will find a way to resolve this that will be satisfactory to both sides.

KOPPEL: Taiwan's president, Chen Shui-bian, they were already issuing invitations to many here in the United States for his imminent arrival in New York next week. Have you made a decision yet whether or not he's going to be able to transit?

POWELL: He will be, and no reason he shouldn't. We understand the nature of our relationship with China, and we will try to reassure the authorities in Beijing that there is nothing in the president's transit that they should find disturbing or in any way modifying or changing or casting any doubt on the policy that exists between us and the People's Republic of China.

KOPPEL: I'd like to ask you about your relationship with others within the president's Cabinet. You've read the same reports that we have about tensions between you and some of your senior colleagues over at the Pentagon. Do you have boxing gloves on in these Cabinet meetings? Do you have a referee?

POWELL: No, Don Rumsfeld and I have known each other for 25 years. I've known Condi Rice for many years. I know Vice President Cheney, of course, very, very well. I worked for him for four years in the Pentagon. We have utmost respect for each other. We get along just fine.

Do we have differences of opinion? Well, what fun would it be if you didn't have differences of opinion? How would it serve the president if all of us thought the same thing about every issue all the time?

The important point is that we know how to air our differences. We know how to come to solid recommendation for the president. And we also know who's responsible for foreign policy and defense policy and national security policy. It's the president in the United States in the name of the American people. And our job is to serve him. And I think, frankly, we're doing a pretty good job serving him with the way we do our business, and we get along just fine.

KOPPEL: I would be remiss if I didn't ask you very quickly about your trip to Africa next week. You have said, as the first African- American secretary of state, that you want to put renewed energy into Africa.

POWELL: I want to make sure everybody understands that Africa is important. There are major economic and health issues that affect especially sub-Saharan African and, therefore, affects the world. There is no part of the world that is not a priority for the United States of America.

There is no part of the world where we don't believe we have an obligation to try to help people who are in need, and Africa certainly is a place in need. And so, I'm looking forward to this trip.

And we have been meeting -- I've been meeting quite regularly with the African leaders who have come here. President Bush, last week, met with the president of Nigeria, who was here -- President Obasanjo -- had a very, very good meeting.

And we want African leaders to know that we are concerned and America is interested in all issues affecting the African continent.

KOPPEL: And I believe you have the foreign minister of Namibia waiting for you at this hour.

POWELL: He's waiting for me, yes.

KOPPEL: Thank you so much, Secretary Powell.

POWELL: Thank you, Andrea.

KOPPEL: Very much appreciate it.

POWELL: Thank you.

KOPPEL: Leon, back to you in Atlanta.

HARRIS: Thank you very much --- our Andrea Koppel there, State Department correspondent, in her discussion this morning with Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Thank you much.

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