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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)


07 May 2004

Powell Says Abuses in Iraq Damage Foreign Policy Goals

Tells AFP it is important to remember goal of building a democratic Iraq

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Bush administration officials are "doing everything we can" to tell the rest of the world that the alleged abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. forces "is totally unacceptable and it's deplorable."

Speaking May 7 with Agence France Presse (AFP) in Washington, Powell said, "There is no question that ... the misbehavior on the part of American troops, makes our work much more difficult," and that the photographs of abuses "are very destructive to our foreign policy efforts."

"We are a nation of values," he said, adding that U.S. soldiers around the world are generally doing good and positive work to help people. "[W]e take these kinds of matters very seriously and it will be dealt with," he said.

The secretary said it is important not to lose sight of the main goal of the coalition forces in Iraq, which is "to put in place a functioning democracy, restore security and help the Iraqi people build a new nation for themselves and to give them their sovereignty back."

He told AFP that France shares this goal with the United States, and that following strained relations between the two countries over the military action in Iraq, "the situation has changed remarkably."

Powell said the Greater Middle East Initiative, due to be discussed at the upcoming G-8 meeting, "is still alive and well."

"The Arab League Foreign Ministers will be meeting next week to discuss it. What we really want to see is what do the Arab nations want to do with respect to reform? What principles do they want to follow with respect to reform?" he said.

The goal of the initiative, he said, is to help those countries achieve their aspirations for reforms.

"This is not a top-down idea. This really has to be bottom-up," said Powell. "We can only help those who have a desire to be helped, and we can only help them according to where they are in their own process of reform development. And that's what we're looking forward to engaging them on."

Turning to the Middle East peace process, Powell said the May 4 meeting of representatives from the United Nations, European Union, Russia and the United States, collectively known as the Quartet, was successful.

"[W]e were able to get a solid statement from the Quartet ... saying that what [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon has proposed gives us an opportunity to put new life into the Middle East peace process," he said.

Powell said President Bush supported Sharon's plan to unilaterally withdraw all Israeli settlements from Gaza and four Israeli settlements in the West Bank because such a move would "essentially break us out of this cycle that was really going nowhere."

"What got all the attention was that he also pointed out some realities that if there is a Palestinian state, we should expect that's where the Palestinians would go, those who have to resettle, and not in the state of Israel," he said.

Bush also said people should expect some realignment of final armistice lines.

"Now, that was a shock and we understand that, and we knew that would get attention," said Powell. But he added that at the same time, "final status issues [are] to be resolved between the parties, we do not prejudge anything, we do not prejudice any particular outcome."

Turning to Pakistan, Powell said President Pervez Musharraf's government has responded "quite well" to U.S. concerns over the proliferation network run by A.Q. Khan.

"I'm not saying it's all completely fixed and we've pulled up every one of the roots, but the kind of things that A.Q. Khan was doing a couple of years ago he is not doing them now," he said.

He also said Musharraf shares U.S. and Afghan concerns over terrorists and Taliban remnants using Pakistani territory as a safe haven.

Secretary Powell said the Bush administration continues to pursue its six-party approach toward North Korea, working with its neighbors to obtain Pyongyang's agreement to a "complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of their nuclear capabilities."

North Korea's neighbors and the United States "are pretty much united and aligned together" on the need for a nuclear-free Korean peninsula, he said.

"We are anxious to move forward," he said. "We want to help North Korea. North Korea has problems with its economy and problems taking care of its people. The president wants to help them with that."

Following is the transcript of Powell's interview with AFP:

(begin transcript)

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
May 7, 2004

INTERVIEW

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
By Matt Lee and Christophe de Roquefeuil
Of Agence France Presse

May 7, 2004
Washington, D.C.

(9:20 a.m. EDT)

MR. LEE: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for sitting down with us. Your shop, the State Department, is going to be taking over in Iraq on June 30th, July 1st. And I'm just curious as to your impressions about how much harder your job, your Department's job, has been made already, or will be in the future, by these allegations of prisoner abuse; and if you -- how you think the investigation, the probes into it, if that's been handled well; and is the criticism, particularly of your colleague, Secretary Rumsfeld, and the call for his resignation from many places, is that -- is that justified, at some point?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no question that these pictures that we have seen on television and in our newspapers and are all over the Arab world, the misbehavior on the part of American troops, makes our work much more difficult, Ambassador Bremer's work, and Ambassador Negroponte's work when we open the embassy and the CPA ends its mission at the end of June.

So we are working hard through our appearances on television, the statements the President has made, his expression of sorrow over what happened, we're doing everything we can to communicate to the world, the Arab world and the rest of the world, that this kind of behavior is totally unacceptable and it's deplorable.

We are a nation of values. Our young men and women in uniform throughout the world are doing very, very good work, positive work to help people, not to hurt people, and we believe that this is an aberration and it will be dealt with. We take these kinds of matters very seriously and it will be dealt with.

Now, with respect to the investigations that are ongoing, I expect that Secretary Rumsfeld will cover in considerable detail at his hearings exactly what we knew about these matters and when we knew about them. And I think it's important to point out that when this specific problem was raised to the commander, General Sanchez, in the middle of January, the very next day, he launched an investigation.

And you will also notice that other inquiries have been made before then to see how we were managing the prison -- the prisons in Iraq and the detainee population. And I think that Secretary Rumsfeld will be able to show that it is not something we were sleeping on. How quickly it came up the chain of command and who was notified, I'm sure Secretary Rumsfeld will cover all of that.

MR. LEE: Well, you don't think heads need to roll at that level?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, before people start talking about this kind of matter, heads needing to roll, let's get all of the facts out. Let's make sure we understand what happened. Let's get the story straight before you get into this kind of -- this kind of suggestion. Don Rumsfeld does a great job as Secretary of Defense. He's got two campaigns underway right now: one in Afghanistan; one in Iraq.

And let's not forget that we've got our troops are deployed in many other places, Bosnia and Kosovo, Haiti. And so this is the time for us to be steady, get all of the facts out, get all of the information out and then see where we are.

MR. DE ROQUEFEUIL: Mr. Secretary, are you still confident that power can be transferred in Iraq on July 1st, as a --

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, but we're still working towards July 1st as the date to transfer sovereignty to an Iraqi interim government. Mr. Brahimi, Ambassador Brahimi, is over there now working with Iraqi leaders and with the Governing Council and with Ambassador Bremer to make that happen.

MR. DE ROQUEFEUIL: And don't you fear that these kind of -- the mistreatments or the abuse of Iraqi prisoners can make it more difficult for you to get more countries involved in Iraq and send in more troops to this country?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it remains to be seen. I think what's the key to getting more troops is getting a new UN resolution and transferring sovereignty over to an Iraqi interim government.

Certainly, these allegations and the scenes you have seen of what took place in the prison is not helping our case. That's why we are spending so much time telling the world that let's not lose sight of what we really have to get accomplished in Iraq, and that is to put in place a functioning democracy, restore security and help the Iraqi people build a new nation for themselves and to give them their sovereignty back.

So we are all distressed by these scenes. They're deplorable. They are unacceptable. They will be dealt with. Justice will be served. There is no question about that. But let's not lose sight of what we're really about, and that is restoring democracy in Iraq.

MR. LEE: All right. I'll just move, shift a little bit to the Middle East.

MR. DE ROQUEFEUIL: Okay, to the Middle East. Do you think that these difficulties that you are facing in Iraq could complicate your work in the Middle East and your efforts to restore the Israeli-Palestinian peace process?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it doesn't help, certainly. These images are very destructive to our foreign policy efforts.

Having said that, we had a successful Quartet meeting earlier this week, where we were able to get a solid statement from the Quartet -- United Nations, Russian Federation, European Union and the United States -- saying that what Mr. Sharon has proposed gives us an opportunity to put new life into the Middle East peace process.

And so we are in close touch with our friends in the region, our Arab friends, our Palestinian colleagues and Israeli colleagues to make sure that we keep this process moving forward, we seize this opportunity that Prime Minister Sharon has put on the table with removal of settlements from Gaza and some settlements from the West Bank, as well, as the beginning of the process of moving down the roadmap.

MR. DE ROQUEFEUIL: And the Greater Middle East Initiative that you are going to discuss with your G-8 colleagues next week in Washington and in June at Sea Island?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Greater Middle East Initiative, as it has sometimes been called, is still alive and well. The Arab League Foreign Ministers will be meeting next week to discuss it. What we really want to see is what do the Arab nations want to do with respect to reform? What principles do they want to follow with respect to reform?

And once they have spoken, both at the ministerial meeting this coming week and then at the Arab summit later in the month, I want to see how we, through the G-8 mechanism, through the EU-U.S. mechanism, or through NATO, can help them achieve their aspirations with respect to reform.

This is not a top-down idea. This really has to be bottom-up. We can only help those who have a desire to be helped, and we can only help them according to where they are in their own process of reform development. And that's what we're looking forward to engaging them on.

MR. LEE: Mr. Secretary, in retrospect, looking at what happened and the anger that erupted in the Arab world after Prime Minister Sharon's visit here because of what the President said or what people thought he had said, looking back on that, was that mishandled at all? And whether it was or not, do you think that with the Quartet meeting and with King Abdullah's visit yesterday and with the statement, the letter the President wrote, has that -- do you -- are you under the impression that the anger has been assuaged?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think to a large extent it has. What the President did with Prime Minister Sharon was to essentially break us out of this cycle that was really going nowhere. We were talking a lot about the Middle East peace process. We weren't making any progress. And so Mr. Sharon provided a new opportunity. I mean, settlements are going to be removed. This is what everybody has been asking for, and they are now going to be removed.

And the President succeeded in getting this moved into the context of the roadmap. And as the President has said clearly, he's said clearly, repeatedly, he said it at the time Mr. Sharon was here, final status issues are to be decided between the parties. What got all the attention was that he also pointed out some realities that if there is a Palestinian state, we should expect that's where the Palestinians would go, those who have to resettle, and not in the state of Israel.

Now, that was a shock and we understand that, and we knew that would get attention. He also said we have to expect that there would be some realignment of the armistice lines. Everybody knows this. It may have shocked people, but it was no secret to anybody. And since then, we have pointed to everyone -- everyone to the other parts of the President's statement about mutually agreed between the parties, final status issues all to be resolved between the parties, we do not prejudge anything, we do not prejudice any particular outcome.

And so now that a couple of weeks have passed and we've had a chance to reinforce the President's principal message, and we have seen the Quartet understand that and endorse it, and with King Abdullah's visit here this week, and the very strong statements both he and the President made yesterday, I think that starts to settle things down. And people are now looking at how we can use this opportunity, how can we go forward. For the first time, settlements are going to be turned over, so how can we go forward?

MR. LEE: Oh, okay. Me again. All right. I wanted to move on to South Asia, looking at elections coming up in Afghanistan in September, you have an election underway right now in the biggest democracy in the world, and how you see India-Pakistan relations going in -- going after -- as we -- as those elections finish up and with the situation in Afghanistan.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, in Afghanistan, we're very anxious to see successful elections this September and the UN is hard at work with registration activities. We do have some security problems that our military commanders there and ISAF, the International Security Assistance Forces there, are working on. But registration is going well. It will have to pick up speed in order to meet the September deadline, but I see no reason why we shouldn't have a successful vote in September.

India, the world's largest democracy, is going through its process of voting, and even as it goes through this process the Indians and Pakistanis continue to talk to one another, continue to improve relations between each other. They are following the roadmap that they laid out for themselves in January.

This is a marked improvement from where we were a year and a half or so ago when the whole world held its breath as two armies got closer and closer to each other on the border and there was a likelihood of conflict that might escalate, some people thought, to nuclear conflict. We've come a long way from that point and I congratulate the Indians and the Pakistanis for realizing that they needed to talk to one another, and I am pleased that we were able to play a useful role in that.

MR. LEE: Your proliferation concerns about Pakistan, are they finished?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we had a very successful period of diplomacy where we were able to show to the Pakistanis that there were things happening out of the A.Q. Khan network that were totally unacceptable. President Musharraf acted on the information we provided to them and that network has been rolled up. A.Q. Khan has told us a great deal about his activities. We've been able to talk to others in that network.

And I'm not saying it's all completely fixed and we've pulled up every one of the roots, but the kind of things that A.Q. Khan was doing a couple of years ago he is not doing them now.

MR. LEE: Right.

SECRETARY POWELL: So I think Pakistan has responded to our proliferation concerns quite well.

MR. LEE: And you -- their efforts on the border with Afghanistan, you're pleased with?

SECRETARY POWELL: They have done quite a bit on the border with Afghanistan. They took quite a few casualties a month or so ago in efforts from those tribal areas. I know that President Musharraf is as concerned as we are, or as the Afghans are, that that part of Pakistan not be a safe haven for terrorists or remnant Taliban elements.

And so we are working closely with Pakistan to assist them in rooting out these people and gaining full control over their areas so that these kinds of elements cannot remain there.

MR. LEE: Any action on the F-16 request?

SECRETARY POWELL: None.

MR. LEE: And the non-NATO status that's been reported to Congress, I now understand?

SECRETARY POWELL: The major non-NATO ally status, as you know, that was announced and it is moving through the system.

MR. DE ROQUUFUIL: Can I ask you a couple of questions about the relations with France? Last year, you said that there should be some consequences for the French for their attitude at the UN with regard to Iraq. Do you think that this idea of sanctions or consequences is still relevant today?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no plan for sanctions, obviously, with France. We had a very difficult time last year. It was a strained period in our relations, but I think the situation has changed remarkably. President Chirac and President Bush have met. I had a number of meetings with Foreign Minister de Villepin. He has now moved on to become the Minister of the Interior, and Mr. Barnier and I have met and we are in regular communication with each other.

We both now have a common goal with respect to Iraq, and that is to help the Iraqi people to build a better life, a life for themselves on a foundation of democracy and freedom. And that's our goal. It's France's goal. So we're working bilaterally and within the context of the United Nations. I think we're cooperating quite well right now.

And as you know, President Bush is looking forward to meeting with President Chirac at the Normandy Beach celebrations on the 6th of June.

MR. DE ROQUUFUIL: Just a quick follow-up on that. You recently suggested that France would send troops to protect the UN in Iraq. Have you got any answer from Paris on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think we've gotten a definitive answer. We've asked a lot of countries if they would be willing to send troops specifically for the purpose of supporting the UN, and I don't have the full range of responses yet.

MR. LEE: And on the French detainees in Guantanamo, you said that they would be released soon?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are working hard on it, and I do expect positive movement in the very near future.

MR. LEE: Mr. Secretary, I understand that you have been briefed -- you asked for, at least, a briefing from the CIA -- about the new National Intelligence Estimates for North Korea and eight bomb -- possibility of eight bombs. I'm wondering how -- does that change the calculus or anything going into the working group six-party talks coming up or --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no. There is not yet a new National Intelligence Estimate on this matter. They are looking at it and examining it, seeing if anything has changed with respect to our basic knowledge, and since this -- we haven't been able to contain where those rods are. So they're reviewing their intelligence holdings to see what range they believe is appropriate. There are different points of view.

But we haven't changed our policy or our approach to this, and we're not going to. It's going to be the six-party approach. We are anxious to move forward. We want to help North Korea. North Korea has problems with its economy and problems taking care of its people. The President wants to help them with that. But it has to begin with North Korea agreeing to complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of their nuclear capabilities.

And we are looking forward to the working group talks that are going to be held next week to see how we can move this process along. We are not going to be shocked or moved to change our strategy. In fact, it's working. I mean, all of North Korea's neighbors and the United States are pretty much united and aligned together on the need for this kind of effort to denuclearize the peninsula.

MR. LEE: Okay. In -- talking about Pakistan and the major non-NATO ally status, several of your other major non-NATO allies -- the Philippines, Thailand -- are having huge problems with the most radical Islam, Islamic militancy. Are you surprised at all, given the recent events in southern Thailand and with the continuing problems in the Philippines? Were you surprised at all that this kind of a force has taken such hold in Southeast Asia?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, each one is different. I mean, in Thailand you have a problem between the Muslims and the Buddhists, and we're watching that closely. It was a rather sharp battle that took placed down there. Thailand is a valued friend of the United States; more than that, it's an ally, it's a formal ally of the United States. And I am confident that, one, they will be handle it; and, two, they will be able to handle the questions that might arise with respect to how the operation was conducted.

The Philippines have always been challenged by various groups, Abu Sayyaf and others, and we work closely with the Philippine Government in providing them assistance to deal with these threats.

These aren't new threats. These kinds of problem are always there. They're inherent in these countries and societies, and they have to be dealt with. And since both of these nations are close to us, we try to assist them as much as we can.

MR. LEE: Okay. And my last two both have to do with China, and that is China and the relationship with Hong Kong, China and the relationship with Taiwan. Both -- there have been troubles on both these accounts. What is your take on it and would you like to see Beijing adopting a less tougher -- a less tough line with both of them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, with respect to Taiwan, our position is clear and has been clear for 30 years. We subscribe fully to our "One China" policy, which rests on the three communiqués, our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act to make sure that Taiwan has what it needs to defend itself.

The President has also made it clear that we do not support independence for Taiwan. It would be not consistent with our "One China" policy.

We have encouraged both sides to be careful of their rhetoric and be careful of any unilateral actions that might increase the level of tension in the region.

With respect to Hong Kong, it's in a different status than Taiwan is. And we have expressed to the Chinese some of our concerns with respect to the manner in which they are suppressing some of the democratic expressions that come out of Hong Kong. And we stay in close touch with the Chinese authorities, as well as the authorities in Hong Kong.

MR. LEE: Okay. And then I have one more I just want to get in. Why wasn't Haiti included in the list of eligible countries for the Millennium Challenge Account money?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are a set of standards that are applied with respect to the new Millennium Challenge Account, and countries have to meet a level of proficiency with respect to these standards, if I can put it that way.

And Haiti was not yet ready for that, but we have other ways of helping Haiti. Initially, we have $55 million, we have found at least another 40, and there may be more money that we'll find.

So Haiti, although not yet ready for the Millennium Challenge Account funding, will be a recipient of considerable aid from the United States, and that's the way in which we structure our policy. I hope the day will come when Haiti is very competitive for the Millennium Challenge Account funding, and that's why have a multiyear program, that's why we've asked for another $2.5 billion next year. Ultimately, we want to get $5 billion a year. There are many countries in need, but we want to make sure they meet the standards that have been set for Millennium Challenge Account funding.

MR. LEE: Okay. And I guess it wouldn't be really an interview unless I asked you if you have changed your mind about serving at the pleasure of the President.

SECRETARY POWELL: I always serve at the pleasure of the President, notwithstanding any other suggestions or speculative utterances on the part of others.

(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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