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27 July 2004

Powell Urges Coalition Resolve in Iraq, Afghanistan

Secretary interviewed by Hungarian Television's "Napkelte" Program

The people of Iraq and Afghanistan "are preparing for free and fair and open elections. But what they need is security," Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview on Hungarian Television in Budapest July 27.

They need the help of the international community "to keep tyrants out of power, to help the democracy come into being, to help people build freedom and the right to choose the kind of leaders that they want," Powell said.

"We must not allow insurgents, those who will use bombs and kidnapping and beheadings to triumph."

Powell, in Hungary on the first stop of a weeklong trip to Europe and the Middle East, thanked Hungarians for their steadfastness in Iraq and Afghanistan. "Your troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing a terrific job and we appreciate that they are there and they are staying," he said.

When asked about the expiration of the Hungarian Parliament's mandate for those troops at the end of the year, Powell replied: "Hungary is a free and democratic country and its Parliament will make its own decision, but I hope they will at that time take a look at the progress that is being made and come to an informed judgment."

"There's a brighter future ahead for the Iraqi people, but only if the coalition stays together, only if the coalition provides the kind of support that the Iraqi people are asking us for and they need. And the same thing is the case in Afghanistan," the Secretary said.

The insurgency is more intense than expected, Powell acknowledged, "but that is not a reason to say that we are wrong or to leave or to break up our timetable. This is the time to come together and to help the Iraqi people build up their own forces, so that ultimately Iraqi forces can take care of security for the nation."

"Democracy is hard, democracy is dangerous and this is the time for us to be steadfast, not get weak in the knees and say, ‘well, gosh, this may be too hard. Let's leave these poor people alone so that the tyrants can return.' We're not going to do that."

Following is the State Department transcript:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman (Budapest, Hungary)
July 27, 2004

INTERVIEW

INTERVIEW OF SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL BY MR. JANOS BETLEN OF HUNGARIAN TELEVISION'S "NAPKELTE" PROGRAM

Budapest, Hungary
July 27, 2004

MR. BETLEN: Good Morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good Morning.

MR. BETLEN: I really appreciate that you have time for us early in the morning, you got here last night late, around half past eleven or something, plus jet lag and I presume you haven't had the time to read Hungary's newspapers this morning, although you speak fluent Hungarian, of course (laughter). The largest circulation Budapest newspaper says about the reason for your visit here is the White House wouldn't like it at all if new, or further coalition partners withdrew from the Iraqi enterprise. Is that a fair description of the reasons why you came here?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, the reason is simpler than that, in that I was invited here months and months ago by my foreign minister colleague, Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs, and he asked me to come and to make a speech to all the assembled Hungarian Ambassadors who are here for a conference. So, this visit has been scheduled for many months. Obviously, in the course of my discussions with the Foreign Minister and with the Ambassadors we will talk about the situation in Iraq and I will convey to them our appreciation, our thanks, and the thanks of the Iraqi people for Hungarian steadfastness, willingness to stay in the presence of continued danger. And your troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are doing a terrific job and we appreciate that they are there and they are staying.

MR. BETLEN: Sir, on the Hungarian constitution to send deployed troops outside Hungary's borders apart from allied NATO, a two-thirds majority is required in Parliament, which means practically the opposition should agree. They did agree last year and they extended the mandate until the end of this year, and now the opposition demands that the troops should be withdrawn. And Laszlo Kovacs, the Hungarian Foreign Minister, when he came back from the United States earlier this summer and he told me you'd come, he also told me you'd like to, you had a plan to persuade Hungarian opposition leaders to change their minds. Will you have the opportunity to talk to them during your stay, your short stay ... less than one day ... and if yes, what will be your argument?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'll be meeting with a number of political leaders in the course of my day and I'm sure we will talk about this and the argument that I would give them, the position I would give them, is that we should be proud of what we've accomplished. In the last three years, two dictatorial regimes, one in Afghanistan and one in Baghdad, have been eliminated: regimes that filled mass graves, regimes that were totalitarians, totalitarian state regimes. And they're gone and we are trying to build a better future for the people of Afghanistan and the people of Iraq. Both of those nations are now preparing for free and fair and open elections. But what they need is security. They need the help of the international community, not to keep the tyrant in power, but to keep tyrants out of power, to help the democracy come into being, to help people build freedom and the right to choose the kind of leaders that they want. We must not allow insurgents, those who will use bombs and kidnapping and beheadings to triumph.

I think the Hungarian people understand this and that's why your troops are there now and I think your parliamentarians will understand this as well. Of all nations in the coalition I think Hungary has had a greater thirst for freedom and a greater understanding of the importance of freedom than perhaps any other member of the coalition, so I'm pleased that they are standing fast, our Hungarian troops are standing fast. When the mandate expires at the end of the year, Hungary is a free and democratic country and its Parliament will make its own decision, but I hope they will at that time take a look at the progress that is being made and come to an informed judgment. But that is up to the Hungarian Parliament to make the decision.

MR. BETLEN: Sir, I don't know to what extent people you talk to are telling you because there is always a lot of politeness in international relations, but I can tell you that the dominating thought in Hungary was ... is today, even among politicians who want to stay in Iraq, want our troops to stay in Iraq as long as it's necessary: even among them is that it was wrong to go. Everybody knows who Saddam was and what he was capable. But, today they feel that it was wrong and they also feel that they, in a way, misjudged the situation and they misjudged it because many people whom they have trusted as being well informed, trustworthy and conservative in judgment, said that it was unavoidable. And today what they see and what many people see, is that it was perhaps not unavoidable and certain reasons that were involved didn't exist at the time and that the scope of the insurgency -- perhaps these are your words -- have been underestimated. Under these circumstances, sir, do you think that the timetable in Iraq is realistic, that is within one and one half years you can establish some sort of viable democracy there?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is still realistic. The insurgency is more intense than we had expected and we have acknowledged that, but that is not a reason to say that we are wrong or to leave or to break up our timetable. This is the time to come together and to help the Iraqi people build up their own forces, so that ultimately Iraqi forces can take care of security for the nation. The reasons we went into Iraq were: one -- we had a nation that had violated twelve years worth of United Nations instructions, United Nations mandate, the international community had spoken for twelve years to this regime and the regime did not listen. It was a regime that had used chemical weapons against its own people. I've been to the place, Halabja in Northern Iraq, where they gassed, murdered 5000 people, so this isn't a figment of the imagination of what Iraq would do with weapons of mass destruction. They did the same thing against the Iranians.

So, let there be no illusions. Saddam Hussein has not only had the intent of using weapons of mass destruction, he did use weapons of mass destruction. He maintained the capability to have weapons of mass destruction. What we have not found, we've not found stockpiles. We thought there'd be stockpiles. It wasn't something the United States made up. Every other serious intelligence organization in the world thought there would be stockpiles -- it was our best judgment. We have not found those stockpiles. Nevertheless, the regime that was keeping in place the capability to develop such weapons and had the intention of developing such weapons and tried to escape the mandate of the international community so that it could get back to doing these kinds of things, that regime is no longer there. And I, for one, am not going to apologize that somehow we took Saddam Hussein out and we are putting in place a democratic system.

What are people struggling for in Iraq now? For the right to vote. What else are they struggling for? For a legislature like your legislature, which decides as an elective body what the nation will do, not a dictator. No more mass graves are being filled, the rape rooms are gone, the suppression of the Shi'as in the south, the waste of the money of Iraq, the oil of Iraq, the weapons on aggressive actions. All of that is over. So there's a brighter future ahead for the Iraqi people, but only if the coalition stays together, only if the coalition provides the kind of support that the Iraqi people are asking us for and they need. And the same thing is the case in Afghanistan.

MR. BETLEN: I realize that there is a difference between the judgment you give over the past and the judgment that you have to give over the future and the present. Whether it was wrong or not, now, the problem is that if the international forces left there would be complete havoc and worse than anything probably. Nevertheless, you, sir, were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff 13 years ago when you didn't move into Baghdad, you didn't overthrow Saddam Hussein. He has committed the same crimes you had just mentioned before, before that, and you didn't move in because you knew what the risks were. What has changed since?

SECRETARY POWELL: The change was that in the first Gulf War in 1991, the specific mandate that the United Nations gave to the coalition was to eliminate the Iraqi army from Kuwait, to kick it out of Kuwait. The mandate was not to go to Baghdad. The mandate of the international community was not to remove that regime. The hope, and that's all it was, was a hope, that Saddam Hussein would change or would not survive, would happen after the Gulf War. Well, he turned out to be much more resilient. And it was only after the Gulf War when UN inspectors went in did we get a good understanding of the full extent of all he had been doing with respect to chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons. And he was hiding it from us for those years after the Gulf War. In 1995, we had information, finally, from a defector that told us about his biological weapons program. And it was horrible to think that he was working in this manner and that's why the United Nations kept passing resolutions after the Gulf War. And the resolutions said "stop, don't do this, account for what you have done, come clean with the international community."

In 1998, President Clinton, concerned about this danger, undertook a bombing action, a bombing campaign against Saddam Hussein to try to destroy these facilities, using the same kind of intelligence that we continued to receive. And then Saddam Hussein, as a result of that bombing, got rid of the inspectors and several years later he still had not answered the resolutions put before him. He still would not come clean with the international community.

MR. BETLEN: Nevertheless there was ...

SECRETARY POWELL: ... nevertheless at that time then, the United Nations in 2002 passed a resolution saying you have one more chance or there will be serious consequences. And he did not take that one more chance. He did not give the full, fair and complete description of his activities. Not all members of the Security Council agreed that military action should have followed but there was sufficient authority in that resolution that President Bush and a number of other senior officials and leaders around the world -- Mr. Blair, Mr. Howard, Mr. Berlusconi, Mr. Aznar, so many others -- came together and joined in a coalition that got rid of the regime once and for all, and we don't have to worry about them disobeying UN resolutions. And Hungary has joined that coalition in the reconstruction. And Hungary should be proud of having made that political decision and it should be proud of the work that its troops have been performing in the country now.

MR. BETLEN: Nevertheless it was a limited coalition, as you know, and the general question arises whether the role of the United States in this new world where there is no more traditional communist threat has been already defined. And if yes, correctly, whether ... to what extent the United States should rely on higher, not just for moral reasons but for practical reasons. There are things that can't be solved or difficult to solve with force -- we can see that. In Afghanistan I think we, you had the only chance, the only chance you had with Afghanistan was to move in. There is no real debate on that. But you see the difficulties. The democracy, it is difficult to say that it is unfolding despite the elections scheduled, rescheduled ...

SECRETARY POWELL: ... but it is unfolding, it's difficult. Democracy is not easy. Hungary had its own struggle to achieve its democracy and it took you decades to achieve it. But in Afghanistan, which you mentioned, seven million people, seven million people, have registered to vote. Thirty eight percent of them are women. They have risked danger, they have gone to polling stations, they've stood in line for the simple privilege that we all enjoy as a right. Now it is their right and they're exercising the privilege to register for that right. Should we be embarrassed because this is happening? Should we be set back and say "let's not do anymore because it's dangerous, it's hard?" Democracy is hard, democracy is dangerous and this is the time for us to be steadfast not get weak in the knees and say, "well, gosh, this may be too hard. Let's leave these poor people alone so that the tyrants can return." We're not going to do that.

And the United States does not simply go in everywhere. We went into Afghanistan because the source of 9/11 was in Afghanistan. We went into Iraq with a coalition of over 35, now 31 nations -- four have left the coalition. There are still 31 nations in the coalition because we believed it was a danger to us and to the region and to the world. But, in other places throughout the world, with respect to the Iranian nuclear weapons program, what are we doing? We're working with the international community. What are we doing in Korea? Invading Korea? No not at all. We're working with Korea's neighbors to persuade Korea, North Korea, that nuclear weapons are not in its interests, and that a de-nuclearized peninsula is in its interest. The United States has worked to expand NATO. We've supported the expansion of the European Union. We are passing programs in our Congress that provide huge amounts of assistance to developing nations. We are taking the lead in trying to relieve the suffering in Sudan. We're taking the lead in fighting HIV/AIDS. So, notwithstanding some common perceptions that all the United States wants to do is find some place to conduct unilateral military operations, it's the contrary that's true. The United States believes in development. It believes in alliances. It believes in multilateral approaches. But where multilateral approaches won't solve the problem, we have to have freedom of action to get a willing coalition that will solve the problem.

MR. BETLEN: Sir, I have a personal question -- namely, there is some talk about the utility or the usefulness that you would have for President Bush to choose you as his running mate for the elections. According to other opinions there is no way you would serve another term. Which of these two possibilities or speculations are nearer to your real thought?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, President Bush has a running mate: Vice President Dick Cheney, and there is no question about that. With respect to what I might do in the future, and this is a matter that is between me and the President, I serve at the pleasure of the President and am very pleased to be serving as the Secretary of State. My term does not come to an end, I don't serve a four-year term. I serve at the pleasure of the President.

MR. BETLEN: There was some complaint from some parts of Hungary about the visa issuing practices of the US authorities -- namely that it was too expensive and an expensive pay telephone line had to be used and it took too long. And you said when the Foreign Minister and the Prime Minister were in the United States that you would revise this issue. Where have you gotten with this analysis?

SECRETARY POWELL: We were disturbed that it was taking too long and that it was too difficult a process to get visas. Not only Hungary, but in other places in the world, as well. After 9/11, we realized that we didn't have control of our borders. We had to put in place procedures which slowed the whole visa process down. But in the last year I think things have improved considerably. With respect to Hungary, over 75% of those who apply receive their visas. I think there may be some feeling in the country that it is a small number who actually get the visas. It's a large number -- over 75% of all Hungarians who apply get the visa, and so, I hope Hungarians will continue to apply. We want Hungarians to come to the United States to go to our schools, to go [to] our medical facilities, to go to Disney World, to come and enjoy the United States. And to visit your relatives, many of whom live in the United States. We have a large Hungarian-American community. So, 75% are successful. It does require a fee to apply for a visa because that's where we get the money in order to run the visa system ...

MR. BETLEN: Four times as much as 10 years ago.

SECRETARY POWELL: ... because it costs more to do it. It's $100 and that's a considerable amount of money, but it's the revenue that is generated from that fee that allows us to run the program and that's the nature of the program and the way our Congress has structured it. I would also point out that it had been taking as long as 40 days to interview, to get an interview, to arrange for an interview. We have now cut that down to 10 days, so within 10 days of application you'll be scheduled for an interview with one of our consular officers. We're also expanding the facilities at our consulate office and making it easier to come, creating better conditions of privacy for the interviews. So, we're doing everything we can to reduce the inconvenience of obtaining a visa and reducing the amount of time one has to wait for the interview and one has to wait to receive a visa. Please keep applying.

MR. BETLEN: Thank you very much sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: 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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