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Powell, Abdullah Press Conference

Aired January 25, 2002 - 12:44   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: We take you now live to Washington, outside the State Department. You see Secretary of State Colin Powell with a guest from Afghanistan, their foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: I had the privilege of meeting him last week during my visit to Kabul, as well as spending time with him at the reconstruction conference in Tokyo.

I again, in the presence of the cameras, Mr. Minister, congratulate you and Chairman Karzai and all of your colleagues for the progress that you have made in a short period of time, and I hope you know, Mr. Minister, that the United States is standing alongside you and the Afghan people and Chairman Karzai as you bring hope into their lives and as you make that hope a reality.

I think we've demonstrated that by what the wonderful young men and women of the armed forces of the United States and their coalition partners have done to free Afghanistan from the curse of the Taliban and Al Qaeda and what you have seen us do with respect to humanitarian relief and the efforts we have made toward the reconstruction effort.

As President Bush said at the very beginning of this crisis, we're in it for as long as it takes, and you can count on us. We did the military job; we're performing the humanitarian job; and we'll be there for the reconstruction effort.

So, Mr. Minister, we welcome you to Washington and we wish you all the best of success in your new and important responsibilities.

ABDULLAH ABDULLAH, AFGHAN INTERIM FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you. Thank you.

Good afternoon. I thank Secretary Powell for his kind remarks, and the government of the United States for its support for the people of Afghanistan in the campaign against terror, and also in the efforts of reconstruction and humanitarian assistance for the people of Afghanistan.

Today was an opportunity for me, a unique opportunity, to discuss in details the issue of Afghanistan, all aspects of it, in great deal with Secretary Powell, as well as with the team at the secretary of state.

Now, if you have any questions, I am ready.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have a question for both you and the foreign minister. There is a report from Newsweek that on the day you were visiting that there were threats against you, and that the Afghan government did not share that threats that were posed against you. Was this discussed at all, and are you aware of these, and can the foreign minister comment?

POWELL: No, we didn't discuss it, because there's always a general level of threat wherever I travel, and there was nothing specific that day that was of concern to me. And the chairman and I just -- I mean, the foreign minister and I just discussed it coming down the elevator, and he wasn't aware of any threat at that time either, nor do I think the other members of his administration were, but if you'd like to say a word...

ABDULLAH: No. I was not aware of it at all. I was also informed by Newsweek about...

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) pleased with the level of sharing of information on threats against U.S. forces?

POWELL: I'm very pleased at the level of exchange that we're having. It's a very high level of exchange, and if you had been at the meeting we just held, you would've seen it in action, as we talked about economic issues, as we talk about security issues, as we talked about relations with the neighbors of Afghanistan.

And so yes, I'm very pleased with the level of exchange we're having in military channels as well as in diplomatic and political channels. And further evidence of this will be when Chairman Karzai comes next week to visit with members of the administration, and with President Bush.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary? Thank you. Could you tell us about your meeting this morning? You must be aware of the reports suggesting that the administration may be considering various punitive measures against the Palestinians, including closing their PLO offices. What are you going to do?

POWELL: We are in touch with the Palestinian Authority. I had a very long talk with Chairman Arafat the day before yesterday, and once again pointed out to him the necessity for him taking strong, resolute, irreversible action to get terror under control; to give answers to the international community about the ship that was carrying all of those arms -- the Karine A; to bring under control those organizations under his authority that are conducting terrorist acts.

And so we continue to give a strong message to Chairman Arafat that he must act, and we continue to review our policy with respect to the Palestinian Authority and to Chairman Arafat, and I expect they'll be speaking to him again in the future to see what he is able to do, or what progress we can make. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary...

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, isn't there an option then to (OFF- MIKE) the Palestinian Authority?

POWELL: I think I've answered the question. And all kinds of options are always out there. But I had a long talk with him the day before yesterday, and he knows what is expected of the Palestinian Authority and of him as the leader of that Authority, if we're ever going to go forward and get toward a cease-fire and then into a cease- fire, so that he Mitchell process can begin, and we can get the negotiations that will bring a satisfactory solution to this crisis.

And so he knows what he needs to do, and of course the United States has full range of options available to us of a political and diplomatic nature.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary? You just returned from -- as well as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. India just recently made a nuclear missile test. Have you talked with any Indian leaders about this? Do you think that it's provocative in the current climate?

POWELL: I haven't had occasion to talk to any of the Indian leaders about the test. It was a test of a short-range missile.

I would just assume they had not performed that test at this time of high tension. But I don't think it will inflame the situation, particularly.

It's Republic Day tomorrow in India -- a great day of celebration. And we hope that will go off peacefully and none of the celebratory activities will be disrupted in any way.

But it's still a tense situation there. I remain pleased that both sides are looking for a diplomatic solution. And we will continue to work with both the Indian government and the Pakistani government to find a way forward that does not lead to a conflict on the subcontinent.

And let me just take the opportunity to congratulate the Indian people on the celebration of their Republic Day.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Foreign Minister, as well, there are increasing or numerous reports that Iran is meddling in your affairs and that there are arms shipments coming in to some of your territories from Iran. Mr. Secretary, do you have anything to say on that, concerns that the U.S. has? And Mr. Foreign Minister, can you confirm any of...

POWELL: I'll yield to him since your question was your affairs, meaning his affairs.

ABDULLAH: In regard to our neighboring countries, what we expect from our neighboring countries at this stage is to seize this opportunity where there is an interim government, which is representative and it is supportive of the political process, which will going to lead to the formation of fully-representative, multi- ethnic government. From that sort of a situation, every neighboring country of Afghanistan can benefit. And they can benefit from the construction of the country, the can engage in constructive way in the reconstruction.

But I have heard rumors about it. I've not seen evidence as based on fact on it.

But I would expect every neighboring country of Afghanistan to build its relations with our country on the principles which will be acceptable for both sides. Those principles will be mutual respect for the interest of each other, mutual respect for the sovereignty of each other and non-interference.

POWELL: Thank you.

ABDULLAH: Thank you.

HARRIS: And they're wrapping up their comments in front of the State Department there. You see Secretary of State Colin Powell and the foreign minister of Afghanistan, the Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, who at one point was the spokesperson for the Northern Alliance.

You see that we did get some news today coming from Secretary Powell. He was asked about whether or not the Bush administration would be pushing for any punitive actions against the Palestinians, and specifically against Yasser Arafat, perhaps going so far as to cut off all relations with them; he says that he had a long conversation with Yasser Arafat yesterday and stressed to him the importance of bringing under control the entities under the authority of Arafat who have been acting as through they were responsible for the sponsorship of any acts of terror.

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