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Powell, Muasher Press Briefing

Aired April 20, 2004 - 11:36   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Right now, Secretary of State Colin Powell answering questions outside the State Department.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: The president's made it clear that he wants this to be a viable state that has contiguity, and the final shape of the state will be determined in final status negotiations between the two parties. That's been our consistent position; there has been no change to that position.


POWELL: Thank you.

QUESTION: President Mubarak said that hatred of America now in the Arab world is greater than it's ever been. Is he right?

POWELL: I think that people should look at what the United States has embarked upon in Iraq. It's created a democracy where people would be free and not at the mercy of a dictator, without mass graves being filled.

I think, as people watch the United States pursue the new opportunity that is before us with respect to the evacuation of the settlements and how we can convert this property into constructive use to benefit the Palestinian people, and I think as people see what the administration is planning to do and what President Bush is determined to do with respect to a Middle East trade initiative -- we are anxious to work with the Arab nations on their ideas for reform within the region -- and I think people will see over time that the United States is committed to the welfare, benefit, and the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the Arab nations, and especially the hopes and dreams and aspirations of the Palestinian people.

POWELL: The Middle East peace process was not moving. Despite the Mitchell plan, the Tenet plan, the Zinni plan and a lot of other efforts, we were not seeing any movement.

And with the initiative that was taken last week by the president, we are now looking at the possibility of settlements being evacuated, something that people have asked for and wanted for a long time. And it will be done ultimately with mutual agreement between the parties on the final status issues. And I hope as people understand that and see progress in all of these areas, the difficulties we're having with Arab opinion toward the United States will change.

QUESTION: On the book, could you just specify -- clarify one thing? Do you believe that you were informed of the decision to go to war before Prince Bandar was?

POWELL: This is becoming quite unreal.

If you read the book, Prince Bandar was briefed on plans, plans that had to do with our deployment and what we might need from the kingdom with respect to our deployment.

I was intimately familiar with those deployment plans. I worked on them. I was consulted on them. They were presented to the National Security Council. I was present whenever these plans were presented.

So first, the suggestion that somehow a plan was presented to Prince Bandar that I was not familiar with is just flat wrong. It was wrong.

And I was aware that he was going to be briefed on the plan because I knew what we were going to be asking of him. It wasn't just a military request, it had a political dimension to it.

On the second point, Prince Bandar, as he said last night when the question arose on certain television programs, he was briefed on the plan and he was told that, "If it came to war, this is the plan that we are developing."

And as he said last night, and as Dr. Rice said on Sunday, and as I said yesterday, no decision was communicated to Prince Bandar of a decision on the part of the president to go to war.

POWELL: We made clear to him that if, unfortunately, war came, this is the plan that we will use, and that's why it was important at that point to bring the Saudis into it, because of our deployment schedules.

And so the next story that comes from that is that somehow two days later I was informed by the president of a decision. Not the case. And it really doesn't say that either in the book or in anything I've said about it.

The president and I had a conversation that day, in January, the 13th, I believe it was, where he expressed concern about the diplomatic process and whether it would achieve the solution that was necessary, and that was to deal with the regime of Saddam Hussein. And he thought it might be necessary to use force, and he was committed to do that if the diplomatic track did not work.

And after our brief meeting -- and it was brief because I'm well aware of the president's thinking and we discussed this issue many times -- I left his office knowing of his determination to resolve this matter, hopefully peacefully, but if not, then through force. And I went back out to the United Nations, and to my work, to try to achieve a diplomatic solution, as the president instructed me to do.

And for the two months after that, until a decision was made to use military force, the president constantly sought a diplomatic solution, and he has said so. And he's made it clear -- as have all of my colleagues in the National Security Council, made clear -- no decision was made to go to war until a decision was made to go to war in March, regardless of what speculation there is about when the president made the decision. He made the decision in March and we all received that decision together.

And with respect to my advice to the president, my advice to the president is to give him my best advice on all aspects of every foreign policy issue he faces. That's my obligation. And I have tried to meet that obligation to the best of my ability and will continue to do so.

Thank you.

KAGAN: You've been listening in to Secretary of State Colin Powell, somewhat, I think, annoyed, at least a little bit testy over having to answer questions over what he refer to as "the book." The book, once again, "The Plan of Attack," written by Bob Woodward, and it came out this week, talking about how the U.S. led up to war and how a number of sources within the Bush administration, including President Bush and Secretary of State Powell.


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