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Powell, Straw Address Reporters

Aired January 23, 2003 - 11:25   ET


LEON HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: ... and take you to Washington, to the State Department, the Benjamin Franklin room. You see there the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw, on the left. He is there briefing the press, along with Secretary of State Colin Powell.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... the situation with respect to Iraq. We are looking forward to the report of the chief inspectors on Monday to the Security Council with respect to Iraq's compliance with the requirements of U.N. Resolution 1441. As the president has repeatedly said, he is hopeful for a peaceful solution, but we must not mistake the role of the international community to see this matter is resolved.

Resolution 1441, which was voted unanimously by the Security Council, 15-0, does not deal with inspectors as much as it deals with Iraq. It gives Iraq one last opportunity to come into compliance with its obligations under the various previous U.N. resolutions. And it also makes clear that if Iraq does not act in a responsible manner and disarm itself with the inspectors assisting in that process, then it is the responsibility of the Security Council, the same 15 members, with new membership now, of course, since it changed over at the beginning of the year, to consider what should be done about this.

And so this is a process that is unfolding, and we will listen carefully to the inspectors' reports on Monday and then be in consultation with our friends and allies around the world and participate in the discussions within the Security Council, and then decisions will be forthcoming from those consultations and that discussion.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that the issue is the disarmament of Iraq, not how much more time the inspectors need, but how much more time should we give Iraq when they have not used the time they've already been given to do what is required of them, and that is to disarm.

HARRIS: As you can see here, we're having a bit of a technical difficulty there with our camera set up in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the State Department there.

Secretary of State Colin Powell coming out here and topping off this briefing of the press with the usual harsh words being directed towards Saddam Hussein and Iraq, the words that we have heard quite often in the past, saying this morning specifically that if Iraq does not disarm with the inspectors participating in the process, Iraq is going to have to pay the consequences, and he also laid out for us what is going to be the strategy in the next coming days after the report is filed by the U.N. weapons inspectors, their chief, Hans Blix, there. The report he'll file next Monday with the Security Council. After that, the consultations will begin, and the process will continue to develop and unfold.

Let's talk about a bit about what is going on with all of this. The former supreme allied commander, General Wesley Clark, is joining us, as he often has of late, to talk about what is happening with Iraq as well as with the diplomatic maneuvering, shall we say, that's been going on behind the scenes.

General Clark, good to see you again this morning. How are you?

CLARK: Just fine, Leon. Good to be with you.

HARRIS: Now, in the last few hours, we again have continued to hear these harsh words coming from the U.S., again directed toward Iraq, but we are also starting to hear some voices in the background saying that now is the time for the administration to start doing a better job of selling its case to the world and to the public here.

What do you make of that?

CLARK: Well, I think this is part of the end game strategy that the administration has had. When it went to the United Nations, it always recognized that even if it got the first U.N. Security Council resolution, it was going to have a problem, because it was considered unlikely that the inspectors would find anything.

And so it's a question of how do you prepare public opinion here and abroad to take the next steps? And as some of the headlines today are trumpeting, people want evidence, not just assertions. So the assumption has always been that the administration has got the evidence.

Ideally, the evidence, some of it, would have been given to the inspectors, they would be able to show it on the ground. If that doesn't happen, then the president and his team are going to have to persuade the American public first, and the international public that there is enough evidence there, enough facts, to warrant going ahead to impose the disarmament of Iraq.

HARRIS: Well, one person that the administration does not have to convince is this man. He is the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw.

General Clark, stand by, we'll get back to you in just a minute. Let's go back and listen to the secretary.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: ... international community to Iraq, and the resolution itself makes that very clear.

People sometimes say, why Iraq? What are the inspectors going to find? And some suggest this is some kind of game of hide and seek, that only if the inspectors find something dramatic is there proof that Iraq has, quote, "failed to comply." It's not like that. What the last lot of inspectors, UNSCOM, said to the United Nations in February 1999, just after they had been forced out by Saddam Hussein, was that, amongst other things unaccounted for, were 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals, 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including 1.5 tons of the deadly VX nerve agent, 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents and 550 mustard gas shells. Any of those sets of munitions could cause lethal damage across the region and could be used in terrorism across the world.

Saddam Hussein has not yet explained where these are. He has, yes, ensured the traffic inspectors allow U.N. inspector vehicles through on red, but that is not compliance, and time is running out for him to comply fully with the terms of 1441.

As I've said, we don't see January 27 as a deadline, and it was never set down as a deadline when we were negotiating 1441, but it is an important moment at which the United Nations needs to signal the determination which it set out very clearly on the 8th of November about the necessity of resolving this issue.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Secretary Straw, may I ask you, sir, of your government's position? How long might Britain be willing to string along with the Security Council considering, as you have noticed, French, German, et cetera opinion, or abandon that approach and stand with the United States and a handful of other allies that want to do something about this without further delay?

STRAW: I'm afraid I don't see the dichotomy in that way. I was in the United Nations General Assembly when the president of the United States made that wonderful speech on September the 12, setting out his faith in the United Nations, and that faith, as it turned out, well placed on November 8 when 1441 was passed. That sets out obligations on Iraq and responsibilities for the United Nations.

And our position, I think, is exactly the same as that of the United States government, which is that we wish to maintain that faith in the United Nations, but there has to be a reciprocal responsibility shown by the United Nations. And both Prime Minister Blair and I and the British government have always said that, given that we can't predict the final outcome of discussions inside the U.N., we have to reserve the position as to what decisions we will take if there is no clear resolution within the U.N.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) between Paris and Berlin on the one hand and Washington on the other, to what extent do you think that affects Britain's position in Europe whether negatively or positively?

STRAW: Well, look, you could always write these off in that way. What I know about 1441 was that it was supported actively by France. They voted for it; they were involved in its negotiation. And I also know because I was in the room when it happened that Germany fully supported the terms of 1441, including explicitly its final paragraph saying that Iraq would have to accept serious consequences from a failure to comply at the Prague NATO Summit in November, and that was the position of the German government as well.

We've known since the summer that Germany was not going to be willing to take part in any circumstances in military action.

And that, of course, is a decision for them. But I don't know any representative within the European Union who did accept the overwhelming need to take positive and effective action about Iraq...

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary -- both secretaries, please, if I could ask you, why do you think it has been so difficult principally the French and others that the onus, the burden of proof, should be on Iraq, not on this coalition to produce a smoking gun? And what do you think, down the road, the impact would be on the United Nations if the coalition of the willing were to proceed without the backing of the United Nations?

POWELL: I think France and Germany do understand that the obligation is on Iraq, and if there's any confusion about that, I'm sure we will clear it up in the days ahead in our conversations with them.

There are different ideas right now as to how to proceed. And the United States believes that the best way to proceed is to keep showing determination, political determination and military determination with our deployments, deployments which, as Secretary Rumsfeld said the other day, support the policy. And now, let's wait and see what the inspectors say on Monday with respect to the degree of cooperation they've received or not received, what they believe the situation is, and then we'll have a debate.

And so I do not rule out that a solution would be found either a peaceful way to do it or the use of military force that would draw the strong support of the council.

This is a beginning debate, not the end of a debate. And even though there are sharp differences now, as we quoted in the press, and clearly, there are sharp differences, there were sharp differences when we also started with 1441 at the beginning.

But 1441 is clear, and everybody signed up to it, to include the Germans by extension at the NATO summit, as Secretary Straw said. And that was clear.

They are in material breach now. They have been in the past. They have a chance to fix the situation by disarming themselves. It's very clear what they had to do. The inspectors were a means to help them disarm. And if they did not disarm, they did not meet the terms of 1441, then they were subject to serious consequences, and that was the final part of 1441, which was signed up on by the French as well as 14 other nations at the time.

STRAW: All countries come out (UNINTELLIGIBLE) important issues from slightly different perspectives. And it's no different than it always, in a sense, has been.

But as Secretary Powell said, 1441 was a unanimous decision. My own view is that one of the reasons why it took such time and attention to negotiate was because everybody in the room knew that what they were signing up to, in that resolution, were the consequences of the resolution as well. Indeed, the consequences could not have been more clearly spelled out in the last paragraph, Paragraph 13, where it says, if Iraq fails to comply, serious consequences will follow.

And everybody knew, too, that serious consequences means only one thing: force.

President Chirac is on record himself as accepting that force may have to be used in order to enforce the will of the United Nations.

So yes, as the secretary said, there are varying reports of different opinions at the moment, but everybody's agreed of the seriousness of the deceit and delay of Saddam Hussein and the threat that he poses and of the need for it to be dealt with.

POWELL: And let me add, yes, I want to talk to the second point.

The United Nations came together and responded to the challenge that President Bush laid down on the 12th of September, and that resulted in 1440, 15-0.

The international community spoke clearly in that resolution. The international community now, to say, "Never mind, I'll walk away from this problem," or ignore it or allow it to be strung out indefinitely with no end, I think, would be a defeat for the international community and a serious defeat of the United Nations process.

STRAW: Perhaps, I could just add, because I often read stuff about exceptionalism (ph) and isolationism here. I was in the General Assembly on the 12th of September when the president made his speech, and he opened the speech, in a sense, by renewing his commitment to the United Nations, by announcing that the United States would be rejoining UNESCO, and you could hear and feel the sense around the room that, here was a president really committed to this (UNINTELLIGIBLE).

And by your deeds, shall you judge them. This administration has shown more commitment to the United Nations, but as ever, commitments have to be reciprocal.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've spoken about your optimism about getting agreement from the Security Council for the next steps. Does that mean you want another resolution if the use of force should become necessary?

POWELL: I think that's an open question right now. I think we have always held a position that there is probably sufficient authority in earlier resolutions or in 1441, but we know that many of our colleagues in the Security Council would prefer to see a second resolution if it comes to the use of military force.

What will happen next week is the inspectors will report. There will be debate that day. There will be debate again on the 29th. I'm sure all of the heads of state in government will talking to one another, and then a judgment will be made as to how to proceed from that point on.

But what I would not rule anything in or anything out at this point. We will see how it unfolds.

STRAW: Do you mind if I...


POWELL: Please.


QUESTION: What do you both believe are the risks of going into war with Iraq without the full approval of the U.N.?

STRAW: Look, we've currently got the full approval of the United Nations, and we've made it clear in the United Kingdom government that we would much prefer a second resolution with reasons that are well rehearsed and understood. We've had to reserve the position if achieving a second resolution is not possible.

There are consequences for the whole of the international community if we cannot follow through, the resolve that was shown on the 8th of November. That's what's at stake here. What's at stake is the authority of the whole of the U.N. because it was the U.N. which backed the military action to stop the gratuitous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq. The U.N., which put in the weapons inspectors; the U.N., which had very patiently to put up with four years of monumental lying and deceit from Saddam Hussein saying they had nothing at all and they discovered things when they had the defectors; the U.N. which had to suffer the humiliation of having those inspectors actually kicked out and then four years of limbo.

So it is the authority of the U.N. and the international order that is at stake which is why we have to follow through. And to repeat a point made by Secretary Powell, we, in the United Kingdom government, are in exactly the same position of the United States government, and I think the whole rest of the world, we want to see this resolved peacefully. But we also know, to quote Kofi Annan, that sometimes -- and this is, by God, one occasion -- you have to back effective diplomacy with a credible threat of force.

QUESTION: You have spoken a lot about the end game here at the U.N. and your optimism that it will succeed. But I can't help but wonder as you're standing both of you underneath a portrait of someone who paid a great deal of attention to what some might call old Europe, whether you, as you say, are going to listen very carefully to what the inspectors say on Monday, are willing to give the same opportunity and listen to the concerns of it so loudly expressed over the last couple of days by the French and the Germans?

POWELL: Of course, I am. I mean, we're all part of an alliance, NATO alliance. We're all part of the Euro-Atlantic partnership. You see two nations represented before you that are democracies with public opinions and with sovereign points of view, and I enter into all of these issues with a desire to hear from the others and recognizing that they have points of view and they have principles they believe in, and that's the greatest of our alliance. This great democratic alliance where we listen to others, and we find a way forward.

And I think we have demonstrated since the president's speech on the 12th of September that there is a way forward. It's a way forward if we remain united, if we don't take our eye off the ball and if we recognize the problem is not what the inspectors can find or not find. The problem is not the United States; the problem is not the United Kingdom. The problem is Saddam Hussein and his willingness to disarm and the obligation he has to disarm in the eyes of the world and in front of the international community. And let us not have any illusions about why this is important.

As you heard the secretary say earlier, he has materials. He has weapons. He has the intention to create more weapons of mass destruction. This isn't just for bragging purposes; he has used this kind of weaponry in the past against his own people, against his neighbors. He has invaded his neighbors, and this is a serious challenge to the region, for the world and that's what the United Nations is all about and this is a challenge that must be met.

QUESTION: Do take it as a given that the British will be there if the president goes the military route, goes to war? Or as you watch obvious divides in Europe now in opposition to this war, do you continence the idea seriously that the administration goes it alone?

POWELL: Oh, I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone. I think that the case is clear. I think that as we move forward, if it can't be solved peacefully and if the U.N. should fail to act, I hope that is not the case, then the United States reserves the right to do what it thinks is appropriate to defend its interests, the interests of its friends and to protect the world. And I'm quite confident that if it comes to that, we'll be joined by many nations. Many nations have already expressed a willingness to serve in a coalition of the willing.

And I would let the representative of Her Majesty's government speak for the United Kingdom.

But I'm sure it'll be a strong coalition. And we have had examples of this in the not to distance past, where the international community wasn't able to act through the Security Council, but nevertheless action was taken by a coalition of the willing.

STRAW: Look, no decisions have been made about military action, certainly, the United Kingdom and, I believe, in the United States.

Yes, we're having to increase the credible threat of force to maintain its credibility. And that is why we, in the United Kingdom, are now committing up to 30,000 UK forces alongside the larger number of U.S. forces in the region. And they are there to be used if necessary and if we make the decisions. But I repeat again that we haven't -- we're doing this, first of all, to enforce the law of the United Nations in whatever circumstances it is done. That's why it's being done. Secondly, we would much prefer a second resolution, but that requires cooperation from our colleagues and partners inside the United Nations.

But there is still a way in which this can be resolved peacefully. To pick up the point the secretary said right at the opening, this is not about inspectors. It's not about the U.S. or the UK or France or Germany. It's about Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime and the fact that it has been violating international law, holding stocks of poisons, of viruses of deadly diseases, trying to rebuild its nuclear capacity to make nuclear weapons in complete defiance of international law. That's the issue and that's why this matter has to be resolved.

Thank you.

POWELL: Thank you.

STRAW: Thank you very much.

HARRIS: British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, along with the Secretary of State Colin Powell, wrapping up their briefing with the press this morning, and some questions that were taken straight from this morning's headlines were tossed their way.

Let's go to Andrea Koppel. This is her beat. We'll let her give us lowdown on what we heard this morning. Andrea Koppel standing by at the State Department this morning.

Hello, Andrea.

ANDREA KOPPEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Leon. I want to point out to the viewers something that struck me. I think it's a visual image that really paints a picture of what the diplomatic standoff is today. You see the United States standing shoulder to shoulder with Great Britain, another permanent member of the U.N. Security Council, while just yesterday, you saw the chancellor of Germany standing shoulder to shoulder with the president of France as they celebrated their 40th anniversary of treaty.

Now, Germany and France are digging in their heels and making very clear that they don't support any kind of war. In fact, France said that it would veto any U.N. resolution if there were to be a second resolution.

But the U.S. and the U.K. position really laying out what we're going to be hearing all next week, is that this is up to the credibility of the United Nations to stand firm, stand together, and make that resolution 1441, that we remember talking about for so long, actually have some teeth, and Saddam Hussein, as they point out, does not and has not complied with it.

So, Leon, this is a diplomatic face-off right now between a number of the United States allies, and it's unclear as things stand right now whether or not France, which is a permanent member of the Security Council, and Germany, another member of the Security Council, will be on board.

HARRIS: Good deal. Thanks, Andrea, appreciate you making that distinction for us. And we'll let you go right now. We're going to bring back General Wesley Clark, who's been also listening in with us.

And, General Clark, I want to ask you what Andrea brought up about the diplomatic front being put up by the image we saw here, the questions that you heard there posed about this reluctance by France and Germany and others there to come on board here, either within NATO or within the U.N. Security Council. President bush has been saying all along, this is going to happen whether it's happens with the U.N. or with a coalition of the willing. It appears that there are some problems here with the case the U.S. is making.

If it was so clear, the case, why is there this resistance there in the world community, and are we talking here more about a coalition of the coerced more so than the coalition of the willing?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK, (RET.) CNN MILITARY ANALYST: There are problems with the case that the U.S. is making, because the U.S. hasn't presented publicly the clear, overwhelming sense of urgency to galvanize the world community to immediate military action now.

HARRIS: And what, then, needs to be said or done to actually communicate that effectively?

CLARK: I think the administration is going to have to release some of the intelligence that it has. It's going to have to connect the dots, so to speak, for international publics, not only for the insiders and the security business across NATO, and it's going to have to give the evidence it's been withholding.

HARRIS: And if it does not do that and goes ahead and proceeds with military action, I mean, how serious in your eyes, would be the question of U.S. legitimacy around the world?

CLARK: I think that is a very serious question, not because it's going to so much hinder the military action, but because in the aftermath and with other interests -- and this is part of the French objection, they're talking about the war on terrorism, and what the impact would be throughout the Muslim world of an American thrust into Iraq.

So you need the cover of legitimacy, and afterwards, you're going to need allies and other people to help share the burdens of peacekeeping.

HARRIS: This is, as we heard Secretary Powell say, just the beginning of the debate, no doubt. We'll talk about this some more down the road.

General Clark, thank you. Appreciate it.


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