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Intelligence

 

06 February 2004

Powell Offers No Apologies for Iraqi Intelligence Assessments

Focus on Iraq's future, not its past, secretary says

By Judy Aita
Washington File United Nations Correspondent

United Nations -- One year after he presented evidence of Iraqi weapons of mass destruction to the Security Council, Secretary of State Colin Powell February 6 defended U.S. intelligence and said that divisions in international relations over the war in Iraq were being repaired.

Powell said that he did not feel he had to apologize for his U.N. presentation and that the information he presented to the Security Council on February 5, 2003 "represented the best judgment we could make at that time on Saddam Hussein's activities."

"What did we know then? What did we present? We said that this was a regime led by a dictator who had every intention of keeping his weapons of mass destruction programs going. And anyone who thinks he didn't is just dead wrong. There is no evidence to suggest that that was an incorrect judgment," the secretary told journalists.

Saddam Hussein used weapons of mass destruction in the past "and it was clear that given the opportunity he would use them in the future if it served his purpose," he said.

"We also knew that he had the capability. He had the people who knew how to do it. He had done it in the past. He had the infrastructure. He had the dual use facilities. We knew he was working on these matters. What we weren't sure, what we couldn't be absolutely sure of, was the nature of his stockpiles," he said.

The intelligence "was a solid intelligence base" when the information was presented to the United Nations and when President Bush pressed for Saddam Hussein's removal, Powell said. The president's action "was totally justified by the information he had, by the intelligence he was provided, the record of this individual."

"One can argue about what weapons were there, what weapons were not there, and who knew what when. The reality is that now we should be spending our energy and time focusing on how to build this country into the kind of democracy that the people will be proud of, the region will be proud of, and the world will be proud of," the secretary said.

"I hope that people see that the United States and its coalition partners are working hard now to stand this country up so that it can be run by its own people, its own leaders as quickly as possible," Powell said. "We are investing a great deal of money. We're taking risks with the lives of our young men and women -- and losing lives to do this. Iraqis are losing lives to do this."

"I hope that all of these nations that were opposed to us will now recognize that we have eliminated a horrible dictator who filled mass graves and did other terrible things to humanity. He's gone. He's not going to be back," he said.

"Now what we need to be worrying about is how quickly we can turn over sovereignty and the Iraqi people can build a democracy we can all be proud of," the secretary said.

At the United Nations February 6 to encourage the international community to support Liberia's peace and reconstruction efforts, Powell had the opportunity to meet with journalists as well as Secretary General Kofi Annan and French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin on other issues including nuclear proliferation and Iraq.

Powell said that last year "was a difficult time" for U.S. interests in the United Nations. "We were not on the same wavelength."

"We had a major disagreement last year, but disagreements come and disagreements go and now we are all working together to press for peace, development, democracy and human rights around the world, end of regional conflicts, and the elimination of proliferation," the secretary said.

"This year we are in agreement that what we have to do is work to help the people of Iraq build democracy, to transfer sovereignty to Iraqi people as quickly as possible," the secretary said.

"We're doing very well with the international community" on Iraq as well as working on African issues, Powell said. "Here in the U.N. over the last 5 or 6 months we've passed resolution after resolution supporting what we are trying to do in Iraq. We are here for an important international conference. We're engaged in finding a solution in Sudan ... having meetings around the world. We're reaching out."

U.S. policies on the need to fight terrorism and weapons proliferation "are gaining more currency," he said. "More and more people are recognizing that this is the way we should work."

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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