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State Department, Pentagon Reportedly Locked Horns Over U.N. Help

Aired September 4, 2003 - 19:14   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Controversy could be brewing between the State Department and the Pentagon. A report in the "Washington Post" today suggests that Secretary of State Colin Powell and General Myers teamed up Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. They were pushing for U.N.-sanctioned peacekeepers in Iraq, according to this report.
Senior Pentagon correspondent Jamie McIntyre has more.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JAMIE MCINTYRE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The denials were unusually quick and extraordinarily unequivocal.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The story can't be characterized as inaccurate because it is absolute fiction, total fiction.

GEN. RICHARD MYERS, JOINT CHIEFS CHAIRMAN: It just absolutely misrepresents the facts, totally and completely.

MCINTYRE: The front page story in the "Washington Post" essentially says Powell and Myers teamed up to overcome Pentagon objections to a U.N. force for Iraq. The high stakes bureaucratic struggle was resolved, claims the newspaper, with the combined clout of the joint chiefs of staff and the State Department persuading a reluctant White House.

The problem with that is it looks like collusion designed to get around Myers' civilian boss, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

POWELL: It's all fiction. It didn't happen. There is no such collusion and there was no need for any such collusion.

MCINTYRE: The post says the seeds of the end run were sewn in this meeting July 27 in the Qatar between General Myers and the top Iraq commander, General John Abizaid, in which Abizaid is purported to have convinced Myers of the need for more non-U.S. Troops.

Nonsense, insists Myers, who says he discussed that topic often with Abizaid.

MYERS: This is something that was peculiar to my trip to Qatar, no. Not at all.

MCINTYRE: And the post says less than two weeks later General Myers was pressing the case for President Bush at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

MYERS: If I did -- I went to Crawford to meet with the president. I did. What the article neglected to say is that I was there with the secretary of defense. It was the secretary of defense party. I was part of that party.

MCINTYRE: Pentagon officials also dispute that seeking a U.N. mandate was an about-face for the administration.

PAUL WOLFOWITZ, DEPUTY DEFENSE SECRETARY: That didn't sort of emerge out of nowhere a few days ago. It's been on our agenda ever since the fall of Baghdad.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

MCINTYRE: Myers' boss, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld is traveling in Iraq and didn't comment directly on the story. Asked by CNN if it stood by its story the "Washington Post" would say only it would have no comment -- Daryn.

KAGAN: We will leave it at that. Jamie McIntyre at the Pentagon, thank you for that.

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