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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Powell Press Briefing

Aired April 15, 2004 - 16:01   ET

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


CANDY CROWLEY, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Sorry, we've got to interrupt Kelly and go to the State Department. Colin Powell is talking.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: And I think that the international community realizes that they cannot give in to these kinds of threats, and I hope this will strengthen our determination to deal with terrorism and especially to do everything we can to bring Osama bin Laden to justice.

QUESTION: Two questions. What do you think about the Mexican vote on human rights in Geneva, and how Mexico and United States can work in improving the human rights in Cuba?

POWELL: I haven't had a chance to review all of the voting that has taken place today, so I think I'm just going to withhold and answer, let my spokesman deal with that.

QUESTION: Can you talk about Arab reaction to the Sharon plan that the president endorsed yesterday, and how you answer critics that say by not fully consulting the Arabs and the Palestinians about this that the U.S. is losing its role as the honest broker in the Middle East?

And if you could say whether you think that the bin Laden tape is accurate, do you really think it's him?

POWELL: On the second question, what I have been told in the course of the day by our intelligence people is that it probably is an accurate tape.

With respect to the first question, I don't think we have abandoned our role as an honest broker at all. What we are seeing in this proposal from Prime Minister Sharon, which the president endorsed yesterday, is an opportunity for the first time in 37 years to see settlements being emptied, to see settlements being removed and the properties being used for the benefit of the Palestinian people.

All of the settlements will be coming out of Gaza, and four settlements will be coming out of the West Bank. And this is the beginning of a process. It is not the end of a process. And I think the international community with this proposal can come together and help the Palestinian people build a better life for themselves in Gaza with the removal of the settlements and the removal of the Israeli Defense Forces and can start to begin the process of moving forward to discussions, negotiations and ultimately final status discussions -- all part of the road map.

POWELL: Now, I know there is concern about some of the issues with respect to right of return of refugees and changes that may have to be made to the armistice lines. And we know this is a very emotional issue for all people in the region, on both sides.

But in this instance we made it clear that we think this is a subject for final status negotiations between the two sides, and we do not prejudge or prejudice the outcome of those negotiations when they occur. And I hope they will occur soon.

What we need is a complete crackdown on terrorism on the part of the Palestinians, and we need additional reform in the Palestinian community. Let the two parties discuss this.

What the president said yesterday, however, that has caused a great deal of attention and comment, was that some realisms that exist on the ground, some changes that have taken place over the years that have to be taken into account.

And one has to do with the right of return and where should return actually be to. And with the presence of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel, it seems logical to believe that that is where the return should take place, as opposed to Israel. But this is something for the two sides to negotiate with each other as they move ahead.

The same thing applies to a realistic view of the situation in the territories, in the occupied territories. The changes in demographics and population centers, changes that have occurred in both sides have led previous negotiating teams to the conclusion that modifications, adjustments, changes will be required to the armistice lines. Everybody knows this.

And so rather than deny this reality, let's talk about this reality and let the two sides, in the process of their negotiations, and in trying to achieve final status between them, determine what is appropriate.

The president did not endorse any particular outcome, he did not endorse any settlements yesterday. He merely said the reality is such that previous negotiators came to the conclusion that adjustments would be needed, and there's no reason to expect that future negotiations will not reach that same conclusion.

Therefore, it was a statement or reality now, without prejudging what the two sides might agree.

Let's get on with this process of removing the settlements, improving life for the Palestinians, getting into the negotiations called for in the road map, ending terror, and getting on with the process that we hope and believe will lead to two states living side by side in peace, the Jewish state of Israel and Palestine. CROWLEY: That is Secretary of State Colin Powell, as we said, defending the president's statement yesterday that the U.S. would indeed support a proposal by Israel to pull out of Gaza completely, but stay for the most part in the West Bank.

Colin Powell calling that merely a reflection of reality on the ground in the Mideast and saying that it was not by any means a done deal, simply that the president was reflecting what other negotiators have also found out, but the president was not in any case trying to dictate a settlement.

Also, according to Colin Powell, the intelligence officers, CIA and such, do believe that the voice on that tape today is that of it Osama bin Laden.

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