07 August 2003
Powell: U.S. Will Not be Defeated in War Against Terror
Discusses world issues in briefing for foreign journalists
The United States is determined to unite the civilized world in a campaign to rid the world of terrorism and will not be deterred or defeated in this effort, Secretary of State Colin Powell said August 7 in a question and answer session with journalists at the State Department's Foreign Press Center in Washington, and via satellite at the New York and Los Angeles centers.
"We're seeing our friends around the world understand the seriousness of this issue," Powell said.
He pointed to arrests in Saudi Arabia of suspected terrorists and the uncovering of caches of munitions there, and similar actions in other countries.
Despite continuing acts of terrorism like the one earlier in the day at the Jordanian Embassy in Baghdad and the day before at the Marriott Hotel in Jakarta, Powell said a lot of progress is being made in the war against terror.
"[T]he terrorists need to know that we will not be deterred. We will certainly not be defeated. And we are ever more determined to go after them wherever they are, until this scourge is dealt with," he said.
Powell condemned the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy. He said he telephoned Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Muasher to convey U.S. regret over the injuries to Jordanian Embassy staff members, and the deaths of Iraqi police officers and others at the scene.
Powell said that over time coalition forces will be able to deal with Baath party holdouts and others who he said are trying to deny Iraqis peace and a better life.
"As time goes by, they will learn more and more and more about the nature of the threat that's out there, who's responsible for these attacks," he said. "And slowly but surely, they will isolate them, get them, and bring the security situation under control."
Powell predicted that Saddam Hussein will be located "in due course," though he cautioned that this in itself, like the deaths of his sons in July, would not solve the security situation.
Powell said "the removal of a despot from office in Baghdad" and "the ascension of Prime Minister Abbas to prime ministership of the Palestinian Authority" has created "a new strategic situation" in the Middle East.
These events, he said, "allowed us to get started on the road map" for peace -- sponsored by the United States, Russia, the European Union, and the United Nations.
"We have seen some progress since the summits at Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba," he said, "but we need to see a lot more."
Powell urged "a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority to go after those organizations within the Palestinian community that have the capacity of conducting terrorist acts -- organizations such as Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad."
"We can't have a situation where during a time of a cease-fire, those organizations are improving their capability, testing new weapons, or creating new factories in order to build more weapons," he said. "So, we're looking for a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinian security officials to go after the infrastructure, the terrorist infrastructure that exists within the Palestinian community."
Regarding the responsibility of the Israelis, Powell said the United States is in conversations with Israeli officials about prisoner releases, about the nature of their settlement activity.
"[W]e want to see settlement activity ended," he said, and "there is a discussion ongoing with the Israelis about the fence that is being put up, and in certain places the fence is actually a wall. We have concerns about that fence. We have problems with it. We have expressed our concerns to the Israelis, and the Israelis are considering the problems that we have identified to them, and we expect that dialogue to continue until we can find a solution."
On the question of U.S. loan guarantees to Israel, Powell said the United States has not made any decisions or announcements about this yet. "But we have to be faithful to the congressional direction that we had with respect to how to use these loan guarantee monies," he said.
On relations between President Bush and Russian President Vladimir Putin, Powell said the two "have worked very closely together over the last two years, have become good friends and talk about a wide range of bilateral issues and international issues. And even when there is disagreement, such as there was over Iraq, we recognize that the broader relationship is such that we can work our way through these disagreements without seeing a relationship go off track."
On North Korea, Powell said "there should be ways to capture assurances to the North Koreans from not only the United States but, we believe, from other parties in the region that there is no hostile intent among the parties who might be participating" in a multilateral discussion with North Korea.
"[W]hen one comes up with such a document or such a written assurance, there are ways that Congress can take note of it" through a resolution of some kind, he said, "without it being a treaty or some kind of pact."
On Liberia, Powell said the Bush administration expects Liberian President Charles Taylor to leave the country. "If Mr. Taylor leaves Liberia, as we expect him to do in the very near future, and is given asylum in Nigeria, this does not remove the indictment" against him by the United Nations tribunal for Sierra Leone, Powell said. "It then becomes a matter between Mr. Taylor" and the tribunal, Powell said. "And we support the indictment. He certainly has allegations against him which I think clearly warrant him appearing before that tribunal."
On the situation in Venezuela, Powell said "We are pleased that a mechanism was found where the government, under President Chavez, and the opposition could have this referendum to allow the people of Venezuela to speak and to be heard with respect to the nature of their government.
"We support democracy in Venezuela, we support the constitutional process in Venezuela, and we have found a constitutional way to deal with the conflict, the disagreement between the government and the opposition. And it is up to the people of Venezuela to determine how they will be governed. And as long as it is done in a free, open, democratic and constitutional way, the United States will be supportive."
On U.S. relations with Africa, Powell said President Bush returned from his recent visit to Africa "deeply impressed and moved" by the vitality and promise he saw in Africa, "and also, moved by the challenges he saw."
"And so, he came back from Africa reassured that the approach that he has taken to Africa since the beginning of this administration is the correct approach: engage, be visible, have real programs and make sure that our policy is one that is based on real substance and not just style."
Following is a transcript of Powell's remarks:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
August 7, 2003
PRESS BRIEFING SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL
The Washington Foreign Press Center
Thursday, August 7, 2003
11:30 a.m. EDT
MR. BALLARD: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. A special welcome to our journalists at the L.A. Foreign Press Center and at the New York Foreign Press Center.
We are delighted to host today a man who, a few months ago from this podium, promised to be back soon. Here he is, keeping his promise, the Secretary of State.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, and it is a privilege to be back at the Foreign Press Center, as I said to you the last time that I would be back soon. And I say to you again today that after this appearance, depending on how well you behave -- (laughter) -- I will be back again. But I do look forward to these encounters and I enjoyed our last session very much.
I will keep my opening comments very brief so we can get to your questions. I might mention that earlier this morning I called the Foreign Minister of Jordan, Foreign Minister Muasher, and expressed my regrets on the incident that took place in Baghdad earlier today with the bombing of the Jordanian Embassy, and regret the injuries to Jordanian personnel as well as the loss of life of innocent Iraqi citizens who were just out in the street going about their business when this terrorist act took place.
When you think of that terrorist act, when you think of what happened in Jakarta at the Marriott Hotel, when you think of the other incidents that we have seen in recent times, it reminds us, once again, that we all must come together, the civilized world must come together to defeat the scourge of terrorism in whatever manner it manifests itself.
We cannot move into this 21st century and work hard to provide hope to people as long as these kinds of incidents take place. The President has made it clear that he will stay with this campaign against terrorism and we will unite the world in this campaign against terrorism. And I think we have seen a great deal of progress. We are seeing our friends around the world understand the seriousness of this issue. We have seen what has happened in Saudi Arabia lately with all of the arrests that have taken place and the uncovering of caches of munitions. And we have seen similar actions in other countries.
The terrorists need to know that we will not be deterred, we will certainly not be defeated, and we are ever more determined to go after them wherever they are until this scourge is dealt with.
At the same time that we worry about these kinds of incidents and we see them on our screen, we should also acknowledge that we are living in a time of hope and promise. In Iraq, a dictator is gone; a people are free. They are returning to schools. They are opening their universities. The power is being restored. The infrastructure is being rebuilt. The economy is starting to function. We have a Governing Council that has been put in place and has elected -- selected a rotating presidency so that this Governing Council can be represented to other institutions around the world, and this is an important first step on the road to that point where we return full sovereignty of Iraq back to the Iraqi people, which is our goal.
As the President and Ambassador Bremer and all of my colleagues in the Administration have said, we intend to not stay any longer than we have to, but we will stay long enough to make sure that we allow the Iraqi people, permit them, empower them to put in place a representative form of government that will make sure that the wealth of Iraq is used to benefit the people of Iraq. We are making good progress in that regard even though, as we see on our screens today, there are still difficulties ahead.
But the very brave young men and women of the coalition forces and the other nations that are now joining that force, they are determined to do their job and they are competent to do the job -- restoring security throughout Iraq and then allowing the Iraqi people to decide how they wish to be governed, and to make sure that the treasure that is in their oil is for the purpose of benefiting the people of Iraq.
There are many other positive things happening in the world today. The President's recent trip to Africa gave us a chance to highlight what we are trying to do with our campaign against HIV/AIDS, what we are trying to do with our Millennium Challenge Account to help those nations that are committed to democracy to improve their infrastructure so that they can attract aid.
Our trade initiatives around the world, the recent passage of the Chile-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the Singapore Free Trade Agreement, what we are trying to do in Central America, the Free Trade Area of the Americas -- all intended for the purpose of breaking down barriers to trade in order for goods to flow and jobs to be created, and wealth to be created that will benefit all the peoples of the world.
So these are exciting times, interesting times, challenging times, but, above all, they are promising times. The President and I had a good chance over the last 48 hours, down at his ranch in Crawford with Dr. Rice, to reflect on all of these issues and the opportunities that are ahead of us, as well as the challenges that are there.
And as you know, the President is spending a good part of his vacation time talking to members of his National Security team, and Secretary of Defense Don Rumsfeld and the Vice President will be down there this evening to have discussions, along with the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on defense transformation issues and other defense issues.
With that, I'll just stop and open myself up to your questions.
MR. BALLARD: Okay, I would like to remind you of three things: first, wait for the microphone for your question; second, please identify yourself and your news organization; and, third, take your two- and three-part questions and turn them into one-part questions, please. (Laughter.)
But, first, we are actually going to the L.A. Foreign Press Center for a question there. L.A.?
QUESTION: Good morning, Secretary Powell. My name is Mochtar Balde and I come from Guinea, which is a neighboring country to Liberia. My question is about Liberia. And will it be politically correct to say that there is an argument between Nigerian authorities and the U.S. Government to grant Taylor asylum in Nigeria instead of handing him over to the United Nations for war crimes? Is this action due to the fact the U.S. is opposed and did not ratify the ICC Treaty?
Thank you, sir.
SECRETARY POWELL: No, it bears no relationship to the ICC or International Criminal Court. This was the special tribunal for Sierra Leone that placed the indictment on Charles Taylor. It is an indictment that we understand and support.
If Mr. Taylor leaves Liberia, as we expect him to do in the very near future, and is given asylum in Nigeria, this does not remove the indictment in any way; it then becomes a matter between Mr. Taylor and the Sierra Leone tribunal, the UN Tribunal for Sierra Leone. And we support the indictment. He certainly has allegations against him which I think clearly warrant him appearing before that tribunal.
MR. BALLARD: Now we move to New York for one question, and then we'll come here. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: I am Paolo Mastrolilli, correspondent for the Vatican radio and the Italian daily newspaper La Stampa. My question is regarding the peace process in the Middle East. I know that this issue is still down the road, but I would like to know if the U.S. Government is open to the possibility of considering an international status for the holy sites in Jerusalem or any kind of an international verified solution for this issue?
SECRETARY POWELL: There have been many suggestions over the years for an international solution manifesting itself, first perhaps, in an international stabilization force or international monitors or peacekeepers of some kind or another, or internationalization of the holy sites.
We are not engaged on those issues right now. The issue before us right now is to keep moving forward in this first stage of the roadmap that was put forward by the Quartet under the leadership of the United States. We have seen some progress since the summits at Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba. We have seen Gaza and Bethlehem turned over to Palestinian control from Israeli control. We have seen the level of terror and violence go down significantly, and there can be no dispute about that. There have been some prisoner releases. There have been some unauthorized outposts removed by the Israelis.
But we need to see a lot more. We need to see a more concerted effort against the capacity for terrorist activity on the Palestinian side. It is not enough just to have a ceasefire, a hudna, as it is called, which could be ended any day. What we really need is a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinian Authority to go after those organizations within the Palestinian community that have the capacity of conducting terrorist acts, organizations such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
We can't have a situation where, during a time of a ceasefire, those organizations are improving their capability, testing new weapons or creating new factories in order to build more weapons. So we are looking for a concerted effort on the part of the Palestinian security officials to go after the infrastructure, the terrorist infrastructure that exists within the Palestinian community.
On the Israeli side, we are in conversations with our Israeli colleagues about prisoner releases, about the nature of their settlement activity. As the President has said, we want to see settlement activity ended. And as you know, there is a discussion ongoing with the Israelis about the fence that is being put up. And, in certain places, the fence is actually a wall.
We have concerns about that fence. We have problems with it. We have expressed our concerns to the Israelis, and the Israelis are considering the problems that we have identified to them, and we expect that dialogue to continue until we can find a solution.
MR. BALLARD: Let's go with him, and then we'll come to (inaudible).
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, Ian Pinel from BBC News. I'd like to talk about Iraq and the security situation there. You played a lot of detail about the civilian successes. But after today's bombing and the deaths of two more U.S. servicemen -- two parts of, I guess, the same point -- first of all, is it safe to assume that the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein have not generated the security that was hoped?
And, secondly, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez says that the U.S. military is dropping its iron-fisted approach to security. So what is the approach to security?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think anyone should have expected that just the death of the two sons would have completely resolved the security situation. And when, in due course, we learn the fate of Saddam Hussein, I wouldn't expect that, in and of itself, to solve the security problem.
There are still individuals within Iraq, leftover Baathists, Fedeyeen -- there are some who are coming in from outside -- who are determined to deny the Iraqis their desire for peace and a better life and for a new country. So we will continue to deal with the security threat and use whatever techniques are appropriate.
As the General said this morning, it may not always be the best technique to flood an area. It may be what you want to do is stand back a little bit more and let Iraqis, local officials -- we have started to create security forces -- Iraqis have started to create security forces that will protect installations, so that you don't need a coalition military organization protecting that installation.
And I think what the General was saying is that we have to be nimble, flexible, as we say in American slang, "call audibles," and change as the situation changes. I think as time goes by, and just knowing all these generals and knowing how they go about their business, as time goes by, they will learn more and more and more about the nature of the threat that is out there, who is responsible for these attacks; and slowly but surely, they will isolate them, get them, and bring the security situation under control through the use of coalition military force, with the use of the other peacekeepers coming in, the stabilization force coming in, and through the creation of Iraqi police, military and other sorts of police units that can guard stationary facilities and not tie up coalition forces doing that. So the General is being flexible and responding to the threat as the threat changes.
MR. BALLARD: Okay, let's go with Reha.
QUESTION: Reha Atasagan with the Turkish Public Television, TRT.
Mr. Secretary, on the deployment of Turkish troops in Iraq. When our Foreign Minister was here two weeks ago, you said you would like to have a decision as soon as possible. Any progress since then?
And are you facing any opposition from the Iraqi Kurdish groups on this matter and also on the cooperation with Turkey to end the presence of PKK and KADEK in Northern Iraq? Thank you.
SECRETARY POWELL: When Foreign Minister Gul was here two weeks ago, I communicated to him that we would like to see a Turkish contribution and we hoped that they would be able to move quickly. And they had just received the request, and he assured me that it would be given every consideration. And I think it will take them some time to analyze this within the Turkish Government, but we are satisfied that the request will be given every consideration.
We are also confident that any Turkish contribution can be managed in a way that would be acceptable to all parties in Iraq and would not cause any strains with the Kurdish population.
And, of course, with respect to PKK and KADEK, we work with our Turkish friends to try to end this threat through assimilation of people back into normal society so that our Turkish friends are not under any kind of terrorist threats from these sorts of organizations.
So, in all three areas that you touched on, I think we are having good discussions with our Turkish colleagues. I am very pleased with the level of cooperation and exchange that takes place, both within political/diplomatic channels and within military channels.
MR. BALLARD: Okay, let's go to Sonia and then Ben.
QUESTION: Thank you. Sonia Schott, Globovision Venezuela. My question is on Latin America, on Venezuela specifically.
In the coming days, the possibility of a recall referendum will decide the future of the Venezuelan democracy. Venezuelan democracy was once the most stable in Latin America. Do you have any comment on that?
And my second, very short. They announced -- the American Government announced they granted yesterday the first asylum to one of the participants of the coup of the April 11 of the last year. Does that mean any change of position?
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me just take the first one, in the interest of time.
We are pleased that a mechanism was found where the government, under President Chavez, and the opposition could have this referendum to allow the people of Venezuela to speak and to be heard with respect to the nature of their government.
We support democracy in Venezuela, we support the constitutional process in Venezuela, and we have found a constitutional way to deal with the conflict, the disagreement between the government and the opposition. It is up to the people of Venezuela to determine how they will be governed, and as long as it is done in a free, open, democratic and constitutional way, the United States will be supportive.
MR. BALLARD: Let's go with Ben, and then Said on the follow-up. Right here, Ben.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. My name is Ben Bangoura, Washington-based journalist.
What impact would President Bush's last trip to Africa have on the relations between United States and the continent?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think that the President's trip to Africa was an historic trip. It was historic in the sense that it was the first time a Republican President had visited Sub-Saharan Africa.
The President came back from that trip deeply impressed and deeply moved, impressed and moved by the vitality he saw and by the promise he saw in Africa, and also moved by the challenges he saw in Africa.
He has charged us to redouble our efforts to see what we can do to work on those challenges: first and foremost HIV/AIDS problem that is just ravaging Sub-Saharan Africa, parts of Sub-Saharan Africa; the Millennium Challenge Account -- a number of African countries will be eligible for those funds; making sure that I do a good job of defending our normal foreign assistance budgets before the Congress -- the Congress has been very generous -- so we can help African nations through our bilateral program; and doing everything we can to help African nations put their political systems on a firmer foundation of democracy and the rule of law and the end of corruption.
So he came back from Africa reassured that the approach that he has taken to Africa since the beginning of this Administration is the correct approach: engage, be visible, have real programs, and make sure that our policy is one that is based on real substance and not just style.
MR. BALLARD: Said for a follow-up, and then the gentlemen in the very far back. Let's go to the back after this.
QUESTION: I have a question on the wall, Mr. Secretary.
Sir, it was suggested that the wall -- Israel can build the fence if it sees fit, but it is not helpful. How does that juxtapose itself against the President's vision for a viable Palestinian state?
And also on the issue of the loan guarantees, how -- what mechanism will the Administration use to actually deduct the cost of the wall from whatever loan guarantees to -- given to Israel?
And I am Said Arikat from Al Quds newspaper. Sorry.
SECRETARY POWELL: Were those two, three or one? I couldn't -- (laughter).
With respect to the fence, all of us put fences up when we feel a need for a fence on our property, and we try to do it in a way that does not prejudice anyone else's property or anyone else's rights. In the case of this fence, Israel felt there was a need to put up such a fence for security purposes, and the President has said that we understand that.
It is when the fence begins to intrude on land that is not on the Israeli side of the green line, or starts to intrude in a way that makes it more difficult for us to make the case for a viable Palestinian state, or starts to cut off certain towns and villages or in other ways interfere with Palestinian activity in Palestinian towns and villages, then is it appropriate for us to say to our Israeli friends, "Look, we have a problem here," and particularly as they are getting ready for the next stages of this fence construction project.
And that is what we are doing. We have identified some problems with the subsequent stages of the fence, what's going on, and we are going to be discussing those problems with them.
With respect to loan guarantees, we have not made any decisions yet, and certainly have not made any announcements yet. But we have to be faithful to the Congressional direction that we had with respect to how to use these loan guarantee monies.
MR. BALLARD: Okay. The gentleman in the back, and then we'll come to Andrei here.
QUESTION: Choi, working with MBC Television of South Korea on North Korea.
And you reportedly said that some form of security assurance in North Korea could include the Senate confirmation or legislative procedure. It is according to transcript, but State Department yesterday denied and made the correction on what you said.
Sir, would you clarify the verbatim what have said? And then did you dangle some security assurance idea to North Korea to make them come to the multilateral -- the formula?
And the second one, when you --
SECRETARY POWELL: That's a long enough one there. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Thank you.
SECRETARY POWELL: Let's see. The State Department disagreed with me yesterday? (Laughter.) That's what happens when you leave town for a day. (Laughter.) I think I can square what you are calling a disagreement.
What I have said previously is that we won't do non-aggression pacts or treaties, things of that nature. But the previous administration had provided security assurances to North Korea over the period of the Agreed Framework from 1994 on. And President Bush has said on more than one occasion that we are not planning to invade North Korea; we are looking for a peaceful solution.
When the President was in South Korea last year -- both at his DoSan train station speech, as well as in comments he made at the Blue House -- made it clear that his greatest concern is the welfare of the people of North Korea, as well as the fact that, by developing nuclear weapons, North Korea is presenting a threat to South Korea and to the rest of the region and to the world, and that should be of concern to us.
In trying to understand the concerns of the North Koreans, what we have said is there should be ways to capture assurances to the North Koreans from not only the United States, but we believe from other parties in the region, that there is no hostile intent among the parties that might be participating in such a discussion.
I think what I have said -- and I wouldn't say you haven't read my transcript, because you obviously have read it more recently than I have -- but what I think I said -- (laughter) -- you are not going to get me into that ambush. (Laughter.) But what I think I said is, when one comes up with such a document, of such a written assurance, there are ways that Congress can take note of it without it being a treaty or some kind of pact. A resolution is something like that -- taking note of something.
MR. BALLARD: Andrei and then the gentleman there.
QUESTION: Andrei Sitov, TASS News Agency of Russia. Sir, thank you --
SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: Yes, I'm sorry, sir. Andrei Sitov, TASS News Agency of Russia. The question about the upcoming summit, what should we expect from the summit? What may be some of the deliverables? Also, if --
SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sorry. From?
QUESTION: From the Putin visit, President Putin visit.
SECRETARY POWELL: To?
QUESTION: To Washington.
SECRETARY POWELL: To the United States? Yes, okay.
QUESTION: To Camp David, actually. Right. So what's on the agenda for the American side? What should we expect? What may be some of the deliverables?
Also, is the United States moving to resuming nuclear testing and may it become one of the issues?
SECRETARY POWELL: On the second question, no, I don't think nuclear testing will be one of the issues. The President has no intention of testing nuclear weapons. We have no need to. And we have been consistent for some time on that issue.
All nuclear-holding powers have a responsibility to make sure that their stockpiles are safe and reliable; and that is what we all are obliged to do, and we see no need to test in order to do that at the moment. We can't rule it out forever. We have no plans to test, so I don't expect that to be a subject of discussion.
I am confident that when the presidents are together, they will review the state of U.S.-Russian bilateral relations, which I think are very good. I think they will review the situation in Iraq, and I am confident they will also talk about Afghanistan, where we are making quite a bit of progress although there are still some difficulties there.
I think they'll talk a great deal about trade. Increasingly, the conversations between President Putin and President Bush relate to trading and other kinds of economic issues.
SECRETARY POWELL: Jackson-Vanik usually gets discussed at some point in those conversations, yes. Also, chicken quotas -- (laughter) -- export quotas get discussed.
But it is fascinating, and when I reflect on my history of negotiations and discussions and meetings with my Russian colleagues over a period of 15 or so years, we have gone from negotiating how to get rid of intermediate-range nuclear weapons, SS-20s and Pershings and ground-launched cruise missiles in 1987 and '88, we have gone from the CFE Treaty that pulled these two massive armies apart from one another, to now, we are arguing about how can we expand trade. That is progress.
And they meet as two gentlemen who have worked very closely together over the last two years, have become good friends, and talk about a wide range of bilateral issues and international issues. And even when there is disagreement, such as there was over Iraq, we recognized that the broader relationship is such that we can work our way through these disagreements without seeing the relationship go off track.
MR. BALLARD: Okay, this gentleman here, and then we'll go to Thomas.
QUESTION: Thank you. Oscar Underwood, Voice of America, Latin America.
Mr. Secretary, the U.S. is engaged on several fronts right now fighting terrorism. Yet we keep hearing reports that some of the money that the terrorists are using is coming from the "tri-border" of South America.
Is the U.S. paying attention to this or do you think it is leaving its southern flank virtually unguarded or exposed?
SECRETARY POWELL: No, we are spending a great deal of time on this. Our Andean Counterdrug Initiative is alive and well. Just a few weeks ago, I went up on Capitol Hill and spent a great deal of time with leaders on Capitol Hill encouraging their full support of the initiative.
My Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Ambassador Marc Grossman, was in the region last week doing in-depth work with Colombia and others in the region to make sure they were aware of our steadfast commitment. We are hard at work. And, hopefully, in the very near future, we will have the air interdiction program back up and running.
And so, no, I can assure you, we have not ignored this obligation that we have in our own neighborhood. As you know, I attended the OAS meeting not too long ago, and then had an opportunity to visit with my Chilean colleagues and the new president and foreign minister of Argentina.
And we have a steady stream of Latin American visitors that have come to the United States and into the Oval Office to see the President, where he reassures them of our commitment and our understanding of the problems that exist in our own hemisphere.
MR. BALLARD: Okay. Thomas, and then we'll come here to you.
QUESTION: Thomas Gorguissian, An Anhar, Lebanon.
Mr. Secretary, after the war in Iraq, you said that your message for Arab neighbors is that there is a new reality, and they have to make new strategic choices. How do you see the response -- their response -- from the Arab neighbors, Arab League in general and Syria in particular? And what is next in conveying and pursuing this message?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think there is a new strategic situation in the region and the two major events -- one, the removal of a despot from office in Baghdad and new hope for the Iraqi people, and with the ascension of Prime Minister Abbas to the prime ministership of the Palestinian Authority that allowed us to get started on the roadmap, which all the Arab nations bought into through representatives at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit, and then we saw it again a day later in Aqaba with King Hussein and the other leaders there, and now we are seeing slow but steady progress on the roadmap.
We would all like to see it go faster. We would like to see more accomplished in a shorter period of time, but nevertheless we are moving forward. And so those are the two major elements in this strategic change. What we have said to our friends in the region, especially our Syrian colleagues, is that you need to see this and adjust your own policies.
And so in my discussions with Syrian leaders, and in my visit to Damascus, I conveyed to the President of Syria that we really believe that Damascus should no longer be allowed to serve as a headquarters for terrorist organizations who were determined to defeat the roadmap, who were determined to deny the Palestinian people the opportunity for a better life in their own state. Organizations that have found a place to do their business in Damascus are against peace, are against the desires of the Palestinian people, the needs of the Palestinian people, and we believe Syria should do everything to shut them down.
We also believe that Syria should not be participating in any transshipment of weapons or other materiel to Hezbollah, and a number of other issues that were presented to Syria. They have responded on some of them and I know they are considering other of the items that we presented to them. We are still not satisfied with the performance that we have seen so far, and we are communicating that on a regular basis to our Syrian colleagues.
With respect to Iran, we have made the same point. It is time now to end state sponsorship of terrorism when we have two sides, Israel and Palestine, Palestinians -- Israelis and Palestinians working together to get us to that point where both peoples can live in peace. And why should Iran be continuing to support terrorist activities and organizations that are determined to destroy that dream?
And we will continue to make that point. And we will continue to encourage all of our Arab friends in the region to do their part, as they said they would at Sharm el-Sheikh -- stop funding organizations that are sponsoring or could be sponsoring terrorist activities; speak out strongly for reform; assist the Palestine people; be prepared to work with the Palestinian people and Israelis to help this roadmap work.
Because if this roadmap doesn't work, if it fails, if it falls apart -- and I don't think it will
-- but would it fall apart, if it were to fall apart, then where are we? We have got too much going in the right direction now to lose this opportunity, and that's the message we consistently give to our Arab friends.
One more point: The Arab League Working Committee recently met, and I know part of your question, and they took note of the new Governing Council in Iraq. I wish they had made a stronger statement of welcome and support. But we will be working with the Arab League over the next several weeks as they get ready for their September meeting to make the point that we are on the road in Iraq toward a representative government. And this Governing Council should be seen as an important step and encouraged in their work.
Secretary General Kofi Annan made an important statement the day before yesterday about the need for the United Nations to show its understanding and recognition of this important development. They were at the UN two weeks ago with Mr. De Mello, and I have my delegation at the UN in New York working with the Secretary General and other members of the Security Council to see how best to provide this kind of recognition of the Governing Council.
MR. BALLARD: Okay, the last question here. Unfortunately, this will be the last question.
QUESTION: Can I have a follow-up on the last one?
MR. BALLARD: No, we've got to go move ahead, I'm sorry.
QUESTION: I'm here. Dubrovka Savic, Belgrade daily Vecernje Novosti.
Last week, Serbian Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic was visiting you. During that visit, it was reported that he offered Serbian troops to join these missions. So what is your comment on that?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are very -- he did make an offer. I think it shows a responsible attitude on the part of the Serbian leadership that they want to be involved in stabilization and peacekeeping operations in the world. It shows a new maturity that was welcomed, and I welcomed the offer.
We didn't accept the offer yet because we are still working to see what our needs are and what their capacity to provide those troops is. And it wasn't an immediate availability. It was an availability toward the latter part of the year.
So I expressed my appreciation, welcomed the offer, and we will be working with our Serbian friends in the months ahead.
MR. BALLARD: Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you to the Secretary of State. We hope to have him back soon.
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