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Powell Speaks at Foreign Press Center

Aired April 15, 2003 - 11:45   ET


HEIDI COLLINS, CNN ANCHOR: At this time, we want to break right here and take you to Secretary of State Colin Powell talking at the Foreign Press Center.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... Ziggurat at Ur, a famous place where perhaps civilization started. And at that location earlier today, dozens and dozens up a hundred Iraqi representatives came together representing every part of Iraq.

And they began a discussion about their future. A future that will be free of tyranny, a future that will be free of dictators, a future that will be based on democracy. A future that will be in the hands of a government that will be committed to values that the Iraqi people hold dear as human beings who want to live in freedom, and want to live under representative government.

The United States is pleased that, as a result of the work of American armed forces as well as the armed forces of so many other coalition members, we were able to bring this day to the people of Iraq. In the weeks ahead, more such meetings will be held and as a result of these meetings, leadership will be identified and interim authority will be created and that interim authority will grow into a new government for the people of Iraq. And so, this is a day of hope.

It is also a day where coalition forces, while battling remaining remnants of the Iraqi regime, are also focusing their attention on humanitarian aid, putting hospitals back in working order.

A number of coalition partners plan to bring in field hospitals into Iraq over the next several days to take care of the people of Iraq, where General Garner and his people are preparing to deploy into Iraq and begin the process of rebuilding ministries.

And so, as one phase of this operation starts to wind down, another phase begins, a phase that really is the important phase, the phase that will put in place a government of a nation that intends in the future to live in peace with its neighbors, to use the wealth of that nation for the benefit of the people of that nation, and a nation that will no longer be pursuing terrorism, will not longer be putting people in prison, will no longer be raping, will no longer be threatening its neighbors -- weapons of mass destruction gone.

I think it is a moment of hope for not only the people of Iraq, but for the people of the region and the people of the world.

And now I'd be delighted to take your questions. QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the international community clearly and unfortunately was unable to resolve the Iraqi crisis through the U.N. We generated a lot of talks about how important and relevant the U.N. actually is. Richard Perle, for example, says that the organization will sink with Saddam Hussein's regime.

As the chief foreign policy adviser to U.S. president, do you think the U.N. is still relevant and important from the point of view of prevention of military conflicts, not only humanitarian assistance? And do you think the organization needs to be reformed?

POWELL: The U.N. remains an important organization. The president and other leaders in the coalition, Prime Minister Blair, President Aznar, Prime Minister Berlusconi and many others, Prime Minister Howard of Australia, have all indicated that they believe the U.N. has a role to play as we go forward in the reconstruction and the rebuilding of Iraq.

The U.N. did come together last fall when it passed Resolution 1441 by a unanimous vote. It took seven weeks of hard negotiations to do that, from the president's speech on the 12th of September, to 1441 on the 8th of November. So it could come together.

Where we were unable to go forward, however, is that when it was clear that Saddam Hussein was not complying with his obligations under 1441 and other resolutions, many other resolutions, over a 12-year period, the Security Council could not agree to come together on a second resolution that would have led to serious consequences.

Nevertheless, we believe that the authority that the U.N. had provided in 1441 and earlier resolutions gave a willing coalition more than adequate authority to impose those serious consequences, and you know the rest of the story.

So the U.N. cannot deal with every situation that comes along when there were strongly held points of view, different points of view. We've seen this before. We saw it in Kosovo a few years ago. The U.N. cannot solve every problem that is brought before it. And I would hope that the Security Council and the U.N. leadership would examine perhaps other ways of dealing with situations like this as they come along.

But the U.N. will remain relevant. It does many important things around the world every day. The United Nations -- the United States has paid its arrears to the United Nations.

We have put in place our effort to re-join UNESCO. And we believe the U.N. has an important role to play in the future.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the rhetoric seems to be ratcheted up against Syria and accusing it of maintaining weapons of mass destruction, chemical weapons. The Syrians responded by saying that: Let's make the Middle East a WMD-free zone.

Do you welcome such a proposition, and can you see a situation where Israel will exceed to such a proposition? And on the road map, sir, do you believe that Sharon's response will help the road map or will hinder it or is it designed to circumvent it? Thank you, sir.

POWELL: On the second question with respect to the road map, as the president has said clearly, now that we have a new Israeli government in place and now that we are close to having a prime minister of the Palestinian Authority appointed and confirmed by the PLC -- and we hope that will happen sometime in the next week or so, when Abu Mazen is confirmed by a vote of confidence by the PLC -- we will release the road map as it was written last November, as it was finalized -- excuse me, last December.

And we hope that both parties will use this road map as a way of reaching the vision that the president laid out in his speech of 24 June last year. And that also is a vision that was laid out by the Arab League nations following on the initiative of Crown Prince Abdullah of Saudi Arabia.

With respect to Syria, the issues that we have raised in recent days with respect to Syria's development of weapons of mass destruction, and you specifically mentioned chemical weapons, are issues we have raised with Syria repeatedly over the years. We are concerned about Syria's development of these kinds of weapons. We are concerned about Syria's continuing support of terrorist organizations.

And in recent weeks, we have been concerned about the flow of material across the Syrian border into Iraq, as well as the flow of individuals back and forth across the Syrian-Iraq border. Some of these individuals went from Syria into Iraq to oppose coalition forces.

And we also have concerns, which we have expressed rather directly and forcefully to the Syrians, over the fact that some Iraqi officials who are guilty of crimes or at least strongly suspected of crimes may be seeking haven in Syria. We don't believe Syria should find this in their interest to give refuge, to give haven to these sorts of individuals who should be returned to Iraq to face the justice that will be meted out by the Iraqi people. And we will make these points to Syria strongly.

We hope that Syria understands now that there is a new environment in the region with the end of the regime of Saddam Hussein, and that Syria will reconsider its policies of past years and understand that there are better choices it can make than the choices it has made in the past.

With respect to weapons of mass destruction, it has always been U.S. policy that we would like to see that whole region free of weapons of mass destruction.


QUESTION: Can I follow up on the road map?

POWELL: Follow up on the road map, yes. QUESTION: Sir, the Israelis said that they presented to you their modification on the road map. Have you received anything from the other side, from the Palestinians? And is it still open for change? You have told us before that it is not negotiable.

And now on the settlements. On the settlements, it's part of the road map.

POWELL: The what?

QUESTION: The settlements, which is part of the road map. We see the Israelis are -- the activities of building settlements is really very high. We saw it on television. We saw reports.

So what is your remarks on the settlements?

POWELL: With respect to the road map, as I said a moment or two ago, the road map will be released to the parties after Mr. Abu Mazen is confirmed, and it'll be the road map draft that was finished last December.

The Israelis have provided us some preliminary comments to the road map, and we expect that after the road map has been formally released we will receive additional comments from the Israeli side. And we also expect at that time to receive comments from the prime minister of the Palestinian Authority.

These are comments that will come in, they'll be considered by the quartet. But really these are comments that both sides have to begin to discuss with each other and share with each other.

This is going to be a very difficult process, but I believe progress can be made if both sides enter this road map process with an understanding of the needs of the other and with a good faith effort to use the new situation in the Palestinian Authority, a new leadership, under the direction of Mr. Abu Mazen, and with a newly elected government of Israel.

We have a new opportunity, an opportunity, I think, that is enhanced by what has happened by the removal of the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein.

So we have a real chance now to get some progress. And part of that progress and part of the road map, an essential part of the road map, will be to deal with the issue of settlements. We understand that, and we know that the Israeli government understands that. And we will see how that works itself out.

Our position with respect to settlements is quite clear: That has to come to an end.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what kind of a role or roles do you envision for Turkey, your coalition partner, in political restructuring of Iraq?

POWELL: First of all, I'd like to say that in recent weeks we've been very pleased at the cooperation we have received from Turkey with respect to allowing humanitarian supplies and allowing supplies for our troops to move across Turkey and over the border in a very expeditious manner.

I discussed this with the Turkish leadership when I was in Ankara two weeks ago, and I have had almost daily conversations with Foreign Minister Gul to make sure that our cooperation is solid. And that also paid off in that we were able to satisfy Turkish concerns about northern Iraq, thereby not requiring any incursion on the part of Turkish forces.

We will keep in very close touch with Turkish authorities as to political developments in Iraq. And I think as this process of meetings continues, with the first one today, there will be an opportunity for all of Iraq's neighbors to provide suggestions and input to that process.

I won't prejudge now who might play a more active or less active role. At the meeting today there were about five coalition countries that were represented at the meeting at Ur and I expect that other coalition countries will have an opportunity to play in the development of the new government of Iraq.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you clarify once and for all whether the war against terrorism affects not merely terrorism in the United States, but also against -- not just democracy in India...(UNINTELLIGIBLE)...dialogue, now dialogue has been tried for 50 years, the reason it fails is that there are two fundamental ideas of how the state should be run, and also when one side wants to annex -- a territory to belong to another state which is an integral part of India, dialogue is not really -- what purpose is a dialogue?

POWELL: We believe that terrorism is terrorism and it is not just an American Phenomenon, it is a curse on the face of civilization and it affects nations throughout the world. We have condemned terrorist attacks across the line of control on the continent and we will continue to do so.

We will continue to work with the government of Pakistan, and the government of India, as we move forward, and we will continue to do everything we can to lower the temperature in that part of the world and to see whether or not opportunities can be created for the two sides to enter into a dialogue. Dialogue has been difficult over the years. But to solve this kind of problem, I think, dialogue is the right solution and resort to force would not be the appropriate solution.


POWELL: North Korea?

QUESTION: I took Egypt...

POWELL: OK, we'll come to the next one.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, a lot of fears have been made about who's next, and some people believed to be close to the administration said that the regimes back in Cairo and in Saudi Arabia should be nervous right now.

How do you address that point, and does the U.S. have a plan to spread a set of values at gun point in your view at this point? Thank you, sir.

POWELL: No, of course not. The president has spoken clearly about this as recently as two days ago, over the weekend. We have concerns about Syria. We have let Syria know of our concerns. We also have concerns about some of the policies of Iran. We have made the Iranians fully aware of our concerns. But, there is no list.

There is no war plan to go and attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values. Democratic values have to ultimately come from within a society and within a nation, because they believe that is the best way for them to move forward. But, you know, we will see how this develops in the various countries of the Middle East and the Persian Gulf in the months and years ahead.

I hope that with the example of Turkey as a democratic nation, and with the new example now of Iraq as a democratic nation -- two strong Muslim nations -- showing that democracy is not something that has to be alien to Muslims and can work for Muslims. I hope that people throughout that part of the world will realize the benefits that come when you have a democratic form of government that is responsive to the needs of the people, uses the wealth of the country to benefit the people, I hope that that will become a more and more attractive political system throughout the region, as it is in many other parts of the world.

There should be no reason that we should be fearful of democracy in the Middle East or in the Gulf region. But each nation will have to find its own way. And Iraq was a unique case, where it wasn't just a matter of a dictator being there, it was a dictator terrorizing his people, raping and pillaging his own people, wasting his treasure. But beyond that, invading his neighbors and threatening the whole world with weapons of mass destruction and supporting terrorist activities and creating a nexus between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, and totally ignoring the will of the international community that told him to get rid of these weapons for a period of 12 years.

And that's what led us to this point. But from this point on, the people of Iraq have a much more hopeful future to look forward to.

QUESTION: Can you take the North Korea question?


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there seems to be some hopeful sounds coming out of your administration and North Korea on a settlement there. Do you think that there's likely to be a meeting soon between the administration and North Korea?

In what sort of forum do you expect to attend? And how much do you think this a flow-on from what happened in Iraq?

POWELL: Very good. You're trying to get it all at once, aren't you?


As you notice from weekend commentary, there has been some overall improvement, I think, in the prospects for dialogue with North Korea.

We have made it clear from the very beginning of this situation that we believe that this was a problem not just between the North Koreans and the United States, but between the North Koreans, the United States and its neighbors, and we wanted to approach this in a multilateral way.

The North Koreans indicated last Friday, I think it was, that forum was not as important as dialogue beginning. And so, we are following up on that statement in diplomatic channels. And I think, as many of you know long before that statement, we were pursuing ways of moving forward on a multilateral basis.

The Russians also made a statement last week that I think was helpful, and I think obviously with the end of the conflict in Iraq, people might have take note of that, as well. So I think a lot of pieces have come together.

But we'll be following all of these ideas through diplomatic channels. And I'm not prepared to announce anything today with respect meetings, attendance levels, what is multilateral and how best to get started and at what level. All of these are issues we're going to be discussing with our friends.

The one thing that is absolutely clear is that, at whatever level it starts and with whatever attendance it has to ultimately encompass the views and thoughts of all the neighbors in the region.

QUESTION: When the Congress passed the supplemental, they conditioned the release of $1 billion grant to Turkey on Turkey's cooperation in Iraq, and named you personally as the authority to decide on that cooperation.

Once the president signs the bill, what would your inclination be, sir? Would you wait to see how Turkey is cooperating in the region or would you give a go-ahead immediately for the release?

POWELL: I haven't made a decision about that. It's not just a matter of cooperation, it's also a matter of what the need is at that time. So we will get an appropriation. Then, working with my colleagues within the administration, Department of Treasury and others and consulting with international financial institutions, we'll get a judgment of what Turkey's needs would be, because $1 billion is going to be used to leverage up a larger amount of money.

There is no secret to the fact that we were very disappointed last month when the Turkish parliament was unable to act on what we believe was a very important request.

The Turkish government was also disappointed. They took it to their parliament at our request and we didn't get the vote we hoped for.

That disappointment is real, but it is now also history, and we're moving forward. And I think the relationship that we have with Turkey is strong and solid. We have been allies for many, many years. And the $1 billion will be used in a way that will help Turkey to develop its economy.

And the level of cooperation that we have seen in the last few weeks has been quite satisfactory, and I would certainly take that into account. But I can't tell you now what judgment I might make once I have the funds available to me.

COLLINS: All right. Secretary of State Colin Powell, as you see there, addressing the foreign press center at the State Department, answering a number of questions about a number of different topics. Everything from Iraq, Syria's possibility of weapons of mass destruction, Turkey, the Israel/Palestinian conflict. Pretty much covered it all today.


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