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Colin Powell Holds Press Conference About War in Iraq

Aired March 25, 2003 - 17:06   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: We're going to interrupt this report from Walter Rodgers to go listen to Secretary of State Colin Powell right now.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... right now into Iraq in a very short period of time and remind everyone that it's only been six days, less than a week and we're hundreds of miles inside Iraq and on the outskirts of Baghdad.

There obviously will be some difficult days ahead, but this is a plan that is being carried out with great professionalism and skill by the coalition military.

I took this opportunity also to thank the foreign minister and through her President Aznar and the Spanish government for the strong support that Spain has provided to us at the U.N. as well as putting the coalition together, and for her untiring work to take the case to the people of the world.

And I hope you all had paid attention to her op-ed piece in the "Wall Street Journal" today, which I think summarizes the situation with respect to the United States and Europe and our mutual interest very, very well.

We also talked about the Middle East peace process. I told her that we are looking forward to the confirmation of the new Palestinian prime minister, Mr. Abu Masen, in the very near future and when he is confirmed, then we'll be in a position to release the road map which I hope will be a new step forward in finding a solution to the tragedy of the Middle East.

So it's my great pleasure to have the prime minister (sic), Palacio here and I invite her to say a word and then we'll take your questions -- Ana.


Let me just begin by saying from the bottom of my heart how close I personally and the government feels to the young American and British men and women that are now in Iraq, and to the families of the ones that have been killed in action or have been wounded or have been made prisoners, and of course, to the Iraqi people that is suffering the consequences of Saddam Hussein's regime and the contempt on the obligation by the international community. Secretary of State Colin Powell said we had a very good discussion. We have kept a very close contact during these past months, but from time to time it's important and I think that we are going through very, very intense days, to just not to have the phone and just be able to speak just personally.

As Secretary of State Colin Powell mentioned, we have, of course, spoken about Iraq, the situation especially the emergency aid situation and the work that is being done at the Security Council, especially by Secretary-General Kofi Annan, to put together a resolution that will cover the aid -- the U.N. aid in Iraq.

As he mentioned, we have spoken about the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. As you all know, this has been very high on the Spanish government priorities and especially on the priorities of Prime Minister Aznar and we are -- we are really looking forward to the confirmation of our government's (ph) and the confirmation of the team that will be with him and to the publication of the road map and to keeping -- to pushing forward this peace process that is really a necessity.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (UNINTELLIGIBLE) have these technology deals with Iraq spun it into reverse? How did they get the stuff there? Could Belarus possibly have provided some of the equipment?

POWELL: No, I don't think the relationship has been spun in the reverse. This is a serious matter. We have raised it with the Russians on a number of occasions. I can't, at this time, trace for you how the material got there, but we know it's there.

And over the past 24 hours I have given through our embassy additional information to Foreign Minister Ivanov and to Russian authorities that I hope will allow them to get on the trail and take what we believe is appropriate action.

It is of concern to us and we're speaking about it very candidly and openly with the Russians. I can't comment on whether or not Belarus is a source or not.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, speaking of Russia, you are also trying to get a new resolution through the Security Council on oil for food, on a reworking of oil for food. And there seems to be Russian opposition in the council to this.

I know you said before that you don't see how anyone can oppose getting humanitarian aid to the Iraqi people, but it appears some can. Could you explain that?

POWELL: Yes, we've been having debates over the last three days on a new oil for food resolution that will allow the secretary-general to begin managing this program, after the program was suspended in the beginning of the conflict.

Issues have been raised by Russia and some of the other members of the council and we are working through all of this. And I hope we can find a solution in the very near future because what we are talking about is getting access to the oil for food program distribution system, contracts that have already been let and are in the pipeline and obligated money that can be used to assist the people of Iraq.

So I think we ought to all come together and see this as a humanitarian effort which has nothing to do with any of the positions one might have taken or not taken on the second resolution of the earlier debates.

And Foreign Minister Palacio and I discussed this and we'll be in touch with our colleagues on the Security Council to press this point and hopefully find a solution over the next couple of days.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary once all of this aid has gotten in, once you've gotten to Baghdad, once that has all been accomplished, how do you think you go about winning the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people who have been so badly battered over the last 12 years?

POWELL: They have been battered for the last 20-odd years by the policies and actions of Saddam Hussein. He has squandered the treasury of the Iraqi people.

And I think that they have access to $20 billion a year of oil revenues and he spent it on weapons of mass destruction. He spent it on oppressive instruments of his regime. He spent it on attacking his neighbors. And when you think that some 20 or 25 years ago Iraq had the GDP of, say, Portugal and all of that was destroyed by Saddam Hussein.

Once that regime has been eliminated and once we have an opportunity to get in there and work with the Iraqi people and help them put in place a responsive government, a government that reflects all of the people of Iraq, that wishes to help all of the people of Iraq, a government that is committed to getting rid of the weapons of mass destruction, a government that is committed to using this $20 billion a year for good purposes, and not evil purposes, I think the people of Iraq will welcome all of this and understand that we have come in peace, not as conquerors, but as liberators.

Just a minute.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (speaking in Spanish)

PALACIO: (speaking in Spanish)


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