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11 August 2003

Powell Says U.S. Hopes Afghanistan Can Hold Elections in 2004

Meets with U.N. envoy to Afghanistan in Washington August 11

Secretary of State Colin Powell has expressed the hope that the constitutional process in Afghanistan will be completed in the fall and elections will be held in the Central Asian country next year.

"We are still anxious to see if we can get through the constitutional process this fall with a new constitution and then looking toward elections next year, as called for in the Bonn agreement. And that still remains our goal, a difficult goal to achieve, but it does remain our goal. And working with my colleague, I hope we'll be able to achieve it," Powell said outside the State Department in Washington August 11 after a meeting with U.N. envoy to Afghanistan Lakhdar Brahimi.

Brahimi said that with the support of the United States and the international community, there is reason for optimism that the people of Afghanistan eventually will be able to "stand on their own two feet." He said in the short term, he would welcome an expansion of the deployment of the international security assistance force for Afghanistan to areas outside the capital Kabul.

Commenting on developments in Liberia, Powell said the United States is pleased with the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power and the departure of former President Charles Taylor to Nigeria. Powell congratulated the work of the Nigerian forces for their peace efforts in Nigeria.

The secretary said U.S. Marines will soon come ashore to help coordinate the reopening of the port of Freeport and facilitate the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid.

"[T]his is the time for all of the parties to commit themselves to a ceasefire, commit themselves to peace, and let us begin the task of relieving the suffering that has afflicted the Liberian people for so long," Powell said.

Following is the transcript of the media conference given by Powell and Brahimi:

(begin transcript)

Remarks With Lakhdar Brahimi,
Special Representative of United Nations Secretary General for Afghanistan, After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
August 11, 2003


SECRETARY POWELL: It's been my great pleasure to welcome Mr. Brahimi back to the State Department. We have had a good conversation about the situation in Afghanistan. I am very pleased at the progress we have made over the last year and a half or so, but we recognize there is much more work to be done.

I conveyed to him our continuing commitment to Afghanistan and that we are looking at ways of accelerating our work with more resources, both resources in terms of money and other assets that we can put to the task of rebuilding the country.

We are still anxious to see if we can get through the constitutional process this fall with a new constitution and then looking toward elections next year, as called for in the Bonn agreement. And that still remains our goal, a difficult goal to achieve, but it does remain our goal. And working with my colleague, I hope we'll be able to achieve it.

And I, once again, took the opportunity to thank Mr. Brahimi for the personal dedication that he has given to this work over the last year and a half or so. It has been a remarkable piece of work on his part. And on behalf of the American people, I once again thank you so very much and a pleasure to have you here.

I'll say a word about Liberia when he's had a chance to say a word. Please.

MR. BRAHIMI: Thank you very much. I am extremely grateful to the Secretary of State for the time he has given me today, and as what I would like to add to what he said is that I have expressed to him personally and to the Government of United States the appreciation of the Secretary General of the United Nations and the appreciation, I think, of the people of Afghanistan for the work that the United States has done as part of the effort of the international community to help the people of Afghanistan out of the nightmare they have lived through for 23 years.

And things are difficult, there are problems, but I think there is every reason to be optimistic with the commitment of the United States that -- and the commitment of the rest of the international community, I think that we will help the people of Afghanistan stand on their own two feet and dispense with the kind of support that they now need.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you. Let me say a word about Liberia before taking your questions.

We are very pleased at the developments we saw in Monrovia today: the peaceful and constitutional transfer of power from Charles Taylor to now President Blah and the departure of Mr. Taylor for Nigeria. We hope that all of the parties to this conflict will now recognize that it is time for the conflict to end. We will be working hard to fix the ceasefire in place, working with the peacekeeping forces that have already arrived. I congratulate the Nigerian forces for the work they have been doing. In the few days that they have been there, they have accomplished a lot.

As you know, our task group, the Iwo Jima Task Group, the Marine Expeditionary Unit, is now just offshore and visible, and I expect within the very near future the commander of the task force will be coming ashore to coordinate with the Nigerian commander, Brigadier General Okonkwo, and Ambassador Blaney and other representatives on the ground how we might be able to assist the ECOMIL forces in opening up the port of Freeport in order to facilitate the arrival and distribution of humanitarian aid and thereby allow the Nigerian and other forces that will be arriving as part of the international intervention force, assist them in making sure that the ceasefire stays in place and that routes are opened up so that humanitarian supplies can be distributed as they arrive. There are ships off the coast now carrying humanitarian supplies and the UN organizations and other international nongovernmental organizations are prepared to swing into action. And this is the time for all of the parties to commit themselves to a ceasefire, commit themselves to peace, and let us begin the task of relieving the suffering that has afflicted the Liberian people for so long.

I would like to offer my congratulations to my colleagues in ECOWAS, the ECOWAS leaders who were in the forefront of the political transformation that we saw today. We have been in very close touch with them, on an hourly basis, as well as in very close touch with the United Nations through our conversations with Secretary General Annan, and we will remain in close touch and try to do everything we can to assist in the transition to an interim government and then, ultimately, to elections so that the Liberian people, in a free and open way, can decide their new leadership.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Lockerbie, how did the trilateral meeting in London with U.K., U.S. and Libyan officials go? And do you think that you may now finally be getting close to a Lockerbie settlement?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we are getting close to a settlement. I don't have a report on the meeting. I've been tied up for most of the day.

Matt.

QUESTION: When you said -- yeah, when you said in the very near future you expected the commander of the group to go into Monrovia, do you know when exactly? Is that planned for today, tomorrow?

SECRETARY POWELL: If it's not today, I expect it will be tomorrow. And he'll be going ashore to meet with the ECOMIL commander, the Nigerian general, Brigadier General Okonkwo and our ambassador. And also, we expect he'll be meeting as well in a group with the LURD commander, who has effective control of the port. They have agreed to leave upon a turnover.

ECOMIL will be in the lead but the United States is there to see how we can assist them.

QUESTION: For Mr. Brahimi. There has been a lot of talk by the Afghan Government about extending the ISAF beyond Kabul. What is your feeling of that? Do you think that there should be an expansion of the force or do you think that NATO should get in and secure Kabul first?

MR. BRAHIMI: NATO has taken over the leadership of ISAF this morning. We are, as you know, in the United Nations, very much in favor of more international support for the security in Afghanistan and we would welcome to a discussion on the expansion of ISAF or any other means of providing that support that I believe is necessary.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, could I ask about Liberia, just following on to Matt's question? Do you anticipate that significant numbers of U.S. forces would be required to secure that port?

SECRETARY POWELL: I can't answer that. I don't think so, really. If the situation remains calm, as it has been for the last few hours, all this should be done in a rather open and peaceful way. And if the ceasefire remains in place I would not expect any large commitment of U.S. forces. It might as small a requirement as just liaison. But there are unique capabilities with the Marine Expeditionary Unit that might be useful in assisting to secure and put the port back into operation and let the humanitarian workers get ashore and food come off.

There is a desperate need for food to be delivered. The warehouses at the port that were full of food have essentially been looted and so we need to start the flow of humanitarian supplies again. But this is a matter to be decided upon between the joint task force commander, the Nigerian commander and Ambassador Blaney.

Thank you.

MR. BRAHIMI: Thank you.

QUESTION: You don't have any comment on the State Department's softball team's stunning weekend victory, do you?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: We're number one. For those of you who missed the bulletin that was going across the bottom of CNN all day long, the State Department's softball team was number one in the Bush-Cheney Softball League, beating EPA yesterday, I think it was, 14-7. We're number one, but you all knew that already. So thank you.

(end transcript)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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