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Colin Powell Press Briefing

Aired December 13, 2001 - 14:08   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We are going now to the State Department where Secretary Powell and others will be talking about a new rewards program for people cooperating in the war on terror.


COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... Rewards for Justice Program. These public service announcements make partners of the American government and the American people in the fight against terrorism.

Since 1984, the Rewards for Justice Program run by the Department of State's Bureau of Diplomatic Security, has been one of the most valuable United States government assets in our fight against international terrorism. In past years, this program has allowed secretaries of state to offer rewards of up to $5 million for information that prevents acts of international terrorism against the United States persons or property, and brings to justice those who have committed such acts.

The United States of America Patriot Act of 2001, signed into law in October, authorizes the secretary of state to now offer rewards greater than $5 million, if it is determined that a greater amount is necessary to combat terrorism or defend the United States against such acts. Through this piece of congressional legislation, I have authorized up to a $25 million reward for information leading to the capture of Osama bin Laden and other key Al Qaeda leaders. Congress acted swiftly and decisively to provide us with the funding for this program. Senators Holling and Gregg and Representatives Wolf and Serrano lead the initiative to pass this legislation, and it will be an invaluable tool in the fight against terrorism.

I'd also like to thank the Rewards for Justice Fund, ordinary people who have donated their time and energy and substantial resources to assist in the fight against terrorism. This fund will allow every American to take part in the fight against terrorism, and every dollar donated to the Rewards for Justice Fund directly supports the Rewards for Justice Program.

Today, for the first time, we are rolling out an extensive domestic media campaign to support the Rewards for Justice Program. This campaign will distribute public service announcements to every major media market in the United States, and we have got some commitments from major radio stations and newspapers from across the country that they will run these public service announcements.

I strongly encourage every newspaper and radio station to run the ads and join us in this fight.

The Rewards for Justice Program works. It's helped root out terrorists in more than 20 cases around the world, including the case of Ramzi Yousef, who is now behind bars for his role in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

People with information of any past or planned act of international terrorism against the United States anywhere in the world can contact the nearest FBI office or the Bureau of Diplomatic Security through the web sites and 1-800 numbers that you see in front of you on various placards and you'll hear more about in a moment.

Terrorism threatens the security of all people. We are more determined than ever to fight it. The United States has tracked terrorists aggressively and made them pay for their crimes. Through this program, thousands of innocent lives around the world have been saved through the prevention of terrorist attacks. Without question, the Rewards for Justice Program is an extremely effective weapon in the United States arsenal to combat terrorism and the threat of international terrorism.

I will be followed, after I take some questions, by Undersecretary Charlotte Beers and others -- Dave Carpenter of our Office of Diplomatic Security -- who will talk to you in greater detail about the program. But I will take your questions now before I have to head off to a meeting at the White House.

QUESTION: There were 60 Israeli citizens who had been picked up in the post-September 11 sweep, many of whom, if not all of whom, are connected to Israeli intelligence. There's no indication that they were connected to the September 11 bombing, but there are indications that they may have known about it ahead of time and the U.S. was not informed by them. Are you concerned about such intelligence operations on U.S. soil and have you taken up this issue with your counterpart in Israel?

POWELL: I'm aware that some Israeli citizens have been detained.

And I've been in touch with the Israeli government, as to the fact that they have been detained, and making sure that they have rights of access to Israeli diplomatic personnel here in the United States; other nationalities have also been detained.

With respect to why they're being detained and the other aspects of your question, whether it's because they're in intelligence services or what they were doing, I will defer to the Department of Justice and the FBI to answer that, because, frankly, I deal with the consular parts of that problem, not the intelligence or law enforcement parts of that problem.

QUESTION: On Yasser Arafat, is the U.S. trying to isolate him diplomatically? Is the U.S., as some reports have it, asking European countries not to allow him to visit? What is your campaign, apart from rhetoric? Apart from rhetoric, what else are you doing to put pressure on Mr. Arafat?

POWELL: We've been putting pressure on Chairman Arafat to do everything in his power to bring these terrorist elements under control. I spoke to him again yesterday. I know he has also been in contact with European leaders who have made the same point to him.

Hamas, for example, is killing innocent Israeli citizens, but it will not destroy Israel. It might destroy Yasser Arafat and the Palestinian Authority.

So Mr. Arafat has a choice to make. He's got to go after these organizations who are ignoring the possibility of peace, who are ignoring the Mitchell peace plan, who are ignoring the efforts of the international community to help the two sides find a way to the Mitchell plan. And they're a threat to everything we are trying to do.

And I think Mr. Arafat has an obligation to do everything in his power to bring them under control with the forces that are available to him. And we are conveying to our European colleagues that they should deliver the same message to Mr. Arafat. And he should focus his attention at home.

And a strong statement came out of Brussels -- European Community the other day, which made that same point to Mr. Arafat.

QUESTION: Are you suggesting he be shunned as he is at the White House?

POWELL: I have not had any conversations about shunning him. Right now, he has difficulty traveling, because he's had difficulty (inaudible)

QUESTION: You say you're not -- that the United States is not triggering a new arms race. What are you -- how do you know that? And specifically, President Putin talked with the Chinese and the Indian leaders today. Has the United States done anything similar? Have you had any guarantees?

POWELL: In my conversations with President Putin and in many, many conversations with Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and his colleagues, it's become clear to me that they understand the nature of our missile defense program, that they have made an analysis of their own security requirements and needs and do not believe that what we are doing is a threat to their national security. That's what they've said.

If it's not a threat to their national security, then why would they engage in an expensive arms race if they do not feel threatened? And the best evidence that they do not feel threatened and are not engaged or planning to engage in such an arms race is the fact that President Putin matched and went even a little bit lower then President Bush's range of strategic offensive warheads, and in his statement today said, "Let's move forward aggressively to put this into a legal framework so the two presidents can bind the two nations at this lower level." That is not the basis of an arms race. Quite the contrary.

Now, I spoke to the Indian foreign minister this morning and the purpose of my call, as well as President Bush's call to Prime Minister Vajpayee, was to express condolences for the tragedy in the parliament and offer our assistance.

I also spoke to the Chinese foreign minister last night and I brought in and had a long conversation with the Chinese ambassador yesterday afternoon to explain why we were taking the action we're taking with respect to the ABM Treaty, and they will now analyze that and I hope they will come to the same conclusion that the Russians came to; that this action is not intended against them. It's not a threat against their strategic deterrence. It will be a system that goes after those irresponsible rogue states that might come up with a couple of missiles and threaten us, and we have to be in a position to deal with that.

So I don't see the basis for an arms race in anything that we have done. I see a basis for increased strategic stability, and I look forward to working with my Russian colleagues, as does Secretary Rumsfeld, in pursuing that.

We spent 11 months, the first 11 months of this administration working with the Russians, discussing this with them at length, building a strong relationship, strong relationship that could take this kind of a disagreement. As President Putin said to me the other day, we have a good strategic relationship that will more than survive this disagreement.

Does he support or approve of what we've done? No. He has said he does not. But he has also said he doesn't view it as a threat to his nation -- and it is not -- and he's looking forward to codifying our mutual reductions.

QUESTION: What's your reaction to the Osama bin Laden tape that was released today? And do you think the comments that he makes on this tape should pretty much put to rest any remaining...

POWELL: How could there be a doubt in anyone's mind any longer about what we have said from the very, very beginning, that he was the mastermind, he is the head of an organization that participates in this kind of evil activity? It is frightening and shocking to sit there and listen to him invoke the name of an almighty to defend murder, to defend evil. That goes against every faith on the face of the Earth. And the tape speaks for itself and everybody can make their judgment, but I don't know what other judgment one can make about it.

QUESTION: Well, Mr. Secretary, do you vindicated at all now, because you were...

POWELL: I never felt...

QUESTION: ... a week or so after the attack, you, from this podium, were the first Cabinet official to say that bin Laden was the prime suspect? POWELL: I have never felt unvindicated.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether the U.S. learned anything new about bin Laden from this tape?

POWELL: I'm not in a position to answer that. I have seen the tape, I have read the transcript rather thoroughly, but I will leave it to my colleagues in other departments to determine whether they've learned something new.

QUESTION: During your recent visit to Ankara, did you have the chance to discuss to the Greek-Turkish differences over the Aegean and Cyprus, and may we have your assessment of this affect?

POWELL: Yes, in my meetings in Ankara with Foreign Minister Cem and of the leaders, took note of the new movement that has taken place between the two sides, welcomed this new initiative, and we look forward to working with both Cypriot leaders and with the United Nations as they move forward. They had, I think, two meetings in a period of two days, and they'll be meeting again in January. So I did take note of it, and congratulated them for this new movement.

QUESTION: How about the Aegean issue?

POWELL: No, we didn't get -- Aegean initiative?

QUESTION: Yes. The Aegean issue?

POWELL: No, we didn't get into any discussion of that.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, back to the Middle East, sir, this is a yes or no question.

WOODRUFF: We are listening to the secretary of state, Colin Powell, coming out to talk to reporters announcing a new program to give Americans rewards of up to $25 million for information that is helpful in the war on terrorism.

Among other things the secretary asked about the arrest in the aftermath of September 11, of some Israeli citizens. I think that's something that we are going to be will looking at, but with regard to the situation in the Middle East right now. He reiterated the Bush Administration position, when it comes to Yasser Arafat, the United States is not trying so much to isolate him, he said, we are simply trying to get him to do all he can to stop the violence.




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