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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

09 February 2003

Powell Discusses Iraq, North Korea on ABC's This Week

(Interview on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos) (3190)
Secretary of State Colin Powell discussed the weapons proliferation
challenges posed by Iraq and North Korea during an interview on ABC's
This Week February 9.
"The issue [with Iraq] is not more inspectors or more robust
inspections; the issue is will Iraq comply, will it give up its
weapons of mass destruction," Powell said.
"If Iraq was complying, giving up these weapons of mass destruction,
[they would tell] us what happened to the mustard gas, what happened
to the anthrax, what happened to the botulinum toxin, where did all
the missiles go, where did all this material go, where are the
documents, [and] bring forward not just one or two people to be
interviewed," Powell said. "If they were doing what they were supposed
to be doing, the inspectors that are there would be more than enough."
On North Korea, Powell said the United States is willing to have talks
with that country, but feels "this is a regional problem and we
believe other nations should play a role in the solution."
"We are worried. We are deeply concerned. We are working with our
friends and allies and we are using the channels we have with North
Korea. And in due course, I believe there will be conversations, but I
think they should be in a multilateral setting," he said.
Following is a transcript of the interview, as released by the
Department of State:
(begin transcript)
Interview on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 9, 2003
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back, Mr. Secretary.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, George. Good morning.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with that French-German plan. They say
they're going to come to the UN later this week and put forward a plan
that involves doubling or tripling the number of inspectors, more
reconnaissance flights, more bases for the inspectors, and, perhaps
most important, they want this all enforced by a UN peacekeeping
What do you think of that plan?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, frankly, I have not seen this plan. It has
been speculated about in the press for the last 24 hours, but I do not
know what the plan actually is. But I suspect it is a variation of
what the French Foreign Minister discussed at the UN on Wednesday, and
that is increasing the number of inspectors and giving them more
robust instructions.
But I do not know what that accomplishes. The issue is not more
inspectors or more robust inspections; the issue is will Iraq comply,
will it give up its weapons of mass destruction. The resolution that
we are trying to execute, 1441, accepted as a fact that Iraq had
weapons of mass destruction -- the French knew that, all the other
members of the Security Council knew it -- said Iraq was in material
breach and said it had to come into compliance or else serious
consequences would flow.
So the issue is not more inspectors. If Iraq was complying, giving up
these weapons of mass destruction, telling us what happened to the
mustard gas, what happened to the anthrax, what happened to the
botulinum toxin, where did all the missiles go, where did all this
material go, where are the documents, bring forward not just one or
two people to be interviewed, bring forward everybody to be
interviewed. If they were doing what they were supposed to be doing,
the inspectors that are there would be more than enough. You could do
it with half as many inspectors.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what seems to be new about this plan, if the
reports are correct, is that the inspectors, they wouldn't only be
increased but they would be backed up by an enforcement mechanism of
these [inaudible].
SECRETARY POWELL: George, I do not know what that means. I am not sure
if that is their plan. What are these blue-helmeted UN forces going to
do? Shoot their way into Iraqi compounds? The issue is the resolution
specifically called upon Iraq to cooperate fully, tell us what
happened to all of this material, tell us what you are doing now, come
clean, and not for inspectors to play detectives or Inspector Clouseau
running all over Iraq looking for this material. Iraq is supposed to
be bringing the material forward. And that is what Iraq is not doing.
Now, the two chief inspectors are having discussions there this
weekend and they will report to the Council this Friday, and we will
see what they report. But we cannot let this game just keep continuing
week after week after week, as we find new and different reasons and
new and different approaches to avoid the situation which is clearly
in front of us, and that is we are reaching a point where the Council
must come together, the Security Council must come together, decide
whether Iraq is still not in compliance, and should face the serious
consequences called for in 1441. And everyone who voted for 1441, to
include the French, understood that serious consequences meant the use
of force.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me just button this up. So if it is as
reported, the United States will not support the French-German plan?
SECRETARY POWELL: I do not know what the French-German plan is. There
is no French-German plan. I have not seen it. All we are responding to
this morning is a report in a German magazine, Der Spiegel, that there
is such a plan, and then some report from the German Defense Minister
that they are working with the French and perhaps the Russians to come
up with a plan that will be presented next week. So let us see what
this so-called "plan" is.
But if it is a plan that ignores continued Iraqi noncompliance and
says the solution is more inspectors, that doesn't solve the problem.
It is attacking the problem in the wrong way. It is not the need for
more inspectors; it is the need for Iraqi compliance, Iraqi turning in
their weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi sending everybody to be
interviewed who needs to be interviewed, and the Iraqis telling us
what happened to this material, this deadly material that could kill
millions and millions of people. We need a change in Baghdad, not a
change in the inspection teams.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned Hans Blix's mission this weekend. If
he comes forward next Friday, big moment at the UN Security Council,
and says we've made some progress with the Iraqis this week and we
need more time, what will the U.S. response be?
SECRETARY POWELL: I do not want to speculate on what -- on this
hypothetical situation. Let us wait and see what Dr. Blix and Dr.
ElBaradei say on Friday. But I do not think we can keep stringing this
out and giving them more and more time. We know why the Iraqis want
more and more time. They're trying to stretch this out in the hope
that it will just sort of dissipate and fall apart and everybody will
go walking away and we will be faced with the same situation we were
faced with last year next year, and that is that we have this regime,
this dictatorial regime that has not given up its commitment to
developing weapons of mass destruction to threaten its neighbors and
to threaten the world.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the U.S. prepared to table a second resolution
of its own that says Iraq is in material breach and sets a deadline
for compliance?
SECRETARY POWELL: The United States is not the only one who can table
such a resolution, and we are talking to our friends and allies in the
Council about what the nature of such a resolution might be. And so
those conversations have begun with respect to a second resolution in
light of continued Iraqi noncompliance, and the President said he
would welcome such a resolution and he would support it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go back to your presentation at the United
Nations this week. At one point, and I want to show our viewers what
you showed: pictures of a camp in Northern Iraq, a terrorist training
camp, you said. We had our own reporters go there over the week and
we're going to also show now that videotape and I'd like to get your
response. What they seemed to find as they went through the camp was a
very rudimentary camp, not much electricity from a single generator,
no running water. It didn't appear to be -- and, of course, these are
not trained inspectors, but it did not appear to be to them any kind
of a terrorist training camp where poison gas was used.
How do you respond to that?
SECRETARY POWELL: If it really was supposed to be a terrorist training
camp, the reporters would not be allowed in. You can be sure that
anything that the owners of that camp did not want reporters to see,
reporters did not see.
Another version of reporters reporting that went into that camp said
we did not see anything but, you know, suddenly we were taken to a
bunker which had video cameras and which had power and which was
sophisticated, had computers, state-of-the-art. And so do not
underestimate what can be hidden.
We are not just relying on one overhead picture to make the claim that
this is a place where poisons were being developed. We have a number
of sources. This is a multi-sourced piece of evidence that we put
down, and we can trace things that have come out of that facility and
have moved through Europe and Central Asia back into Western Europe to
support terrorists in the production of poisons -- poisons that have
been found in different capitals throughout Europe. So this is not a
And we fully anticipated that after my presentation, every picture I
threw up and everything I showed, within a day or two the Iraqis would
be taking people to go look at what they wanted them to see at these
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you were asked about this at your
hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week by
Senator Biden, who will also be on the program, and he raised the
question, you know, why didn't you just take the terrorist camp out if
you knew that they had activity there. I know you didn't want to
discuss it in public, but I bring it up for two reasons: because
Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says they've actually asked
about it in private and haven't been given any satisfactory answers;
and secondly, a senior official, intelligence official, gave the L.A.
Times this explanation for why you didn't destroy it -- he said this
is it, this is their compelling evidence for the use of force; if you
take it out, you can't use it as a justification for war.
Is that the reason it wasn't destroyed?
SECRETARY POWELL: Of course not. I do not know who this senior
intelligence officer is, and he seems not to be talking intelligence
but policy. We examine all of these things on a regular, continuing
basis, and when you consider military options you consider them in the
framework of your entire strategy. And we are familiar with this
facility, we have been able to track things coming out of it, and we
have a variety of options that have been under consideration with
respect to that facility.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Why didn't you destroy it?
SECRETARY POWELL: I am not going to discuss why we did or did not do a
particular military action in public.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Attorney General announced on Friday that the
United States was now on the highest level of alert from a terrorist
strike. Should the American people expect, as we get closer to a
possible military action with Iraq, that those threats will increase?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think one has to prudently expect that if conflict
becomes closer, more proximate, we would have to be even more vigilant
with respect to the security of our nation and the security of
facilities within our nation, and it would require more prudent action
on the part of all American citizens. But I do not think we should
start panicking about it. And even in this movement to a higher alert
status, I think the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland
Security have made it clear: "go about your business but we will be
more vigilant, we'll be watching things more closely, but continue to
go about your business, go about your entertainment activities, visit
your religion sites every weekend, go to church, go to synagogue, go
to temple, let us not destroy the American way of life, let us just be
vigilant and careful."
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI alert mentioned the possibility of an
attack using radiological devices. Does that mean that the United
States Government now believes that al-Qaida has the capability to let
off a dirty bomb?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have to at least be conscious of that
possibility. By radiological bomb, we do not mean a nuclear weapon in
that regard; we just mean spreading contamination, radiological
contamination. That is not a difficult thing to do if one can get the
source of the contamination, the radiological material.
And I think it is prudent to assume that that is a possibility. How
likely it is I cannot say, but I think it is wise for us to at least
let the American people know of this possibility.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, let me switch to North Korea now. You
came under a fair amount of pressure at the Foreign Relations
Committee from senators saying you should engage in direct talks with
the North Koreans. You're the Secretary of State. Why not just get on
a plane, fly to a neutral third country, fly to Pyongyang, and
confront the North Koreans directly with your case?
SECRETARY POWELL: We did. I confronted them in Brunei at the end of
July, and I said to the North Korean Foreign Minister that we want to
have a better relationship and we have some ideas as to how we can
help you with your economy and the fact that your people are starving,
but we have to deal with this issue of proliferation of missiles and
other dangerous technologies that you are responsible for, and I want
to send in Assistant Secretary Kelly to talk about these matters.
And in October, Assistant Secretary of State Kelly went in and went to
Pyongyang, just as you suggested, sat down and talked with them, and
said: "look, we want to have a better relationship but we cannot have
a better relationship when we know you are doing these kinds of things
-- and by the way, we also know that in direct violation of every
agreement you have made with North Korea, with South Korea, with the
IAEA, the Agreed Framework you have with us, you are developing a new
capacity to develop nuclear weapons using enriched uranium."
We thought they would deny it. They acknowledged it. They were shocked
we knew. They acknowledged it. And they have said yes, we did it. And
therefore, they put themselves in violation of at least four separate
Now, before we run back in and start talking to them directly, we
believe this is a regional problem and we believe other nations should
play a role in the solution. And that is why we want to talk to them
in a multilateral setting. Why should we not include South Korea and
Japan and China and Russia? China has more than a passing interest,
for example. They have said it is their national policy that they want
a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And why should we not ask the
Chinese to work with us on that prospect?
Everybody says: "well, all the North Koreans want is an agreement with
you -- just say you are not going to attack or invade them." President
Clinton gave them many such agreements. South Korea gave them such an
agreement. They had a number of agreements throughout the 1990s that
said just that. And what did North Korea do with those agreements?
They let us all watch Yongbyon to think that we had stopped nuclear
activities there while they went about developing nuclear capacity at
another place using enriched uranium techniques.
And so we have to make sure we just do not go down that path again
because we are worried about what they are doing. We are worried. We
are deeply concerned. We are working with our friends and allies and
we are using the channels we have with North Korea. And in due course,
I believe there will be conversations, but I think they should be in a
multilateral setting.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have one final question, sir. I mean, as we
get closer to possible action with Iraq, the world is looking like a
pretty scary place. Saddam Hussein is threatening to use
biological-chemical weapons against our troops. We saw that terror
alert. North Korea is accelerating its nuclear program and there are
even reports that the Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan.
How would you respond to an American citizen who says, listen, I know
Saddam is a bad guy, but maybe it's more dangerous to take him out
than to let him stay.
SECRETARY POWELL: No -- I would say to an American citizen that is not
the right answer. We cannot ignore danger. We cannot turn away from
this challenge. This challenge has been with us now for 12 long years
and it is time to resolve this challenge once and for all. It is time
to do something about this regime that has been developing weapons of
mass destruction, that has been thumbing its nose at now 17 different
UN resolutions.
And if the UN is to remain relevant, if we are going to have any
standing in the world as a leader of the world that wants to be free,
this is the time for the United States, working with the United
Nations or working with willing members of a coalition, to deal with
this problem once and for all.
We have been trying for 12 years to deal with it peacefully. This very
day, we are trying to deal with it peacefully. The President is
hopeful for a peaceful solution, even at this late date. But it is a
problem that must be dealt with. And if the UN finds itself not
capable of dealing with it, then the President, with a lot of nations
joining in, we will deal with it.
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.
(end transcript)
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site:

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