Interview by Greek TVMarc Grossman, Under Secretary for Political Affairs
September 25, 2002
(4:10 p.m. EDT)
QUESTION: It seems almost to everybody that the attack against Iraq is imminent. Do you agree with them?
MR. GROSSMAN: First of all, thank you very much for inviting me here today. I think you have to step back from the President's speech on the 12th of September in New York. The President did not go there to declare war. He didn't go there to say that we were going to attack Iraq. He went there to state a purpose, which is that Iraq must comply with the obligations that it made not to the United States, but to the whole international community, 11 years ago -- obligations about weapons of mass destruction, obligations about human rights, obligations about how it treats its own citizens. And so when you put the question that way, I really, with all due respect, have to answer it in another way.
QUESTION: Well, if he does not agree, if he -- I mean, if he continues to say no to the United States and to the United Nations, what is going to be the next step?
MR. GROSSMAN: I believe that obviously it's the presidents and the heads of our countries to decide. But what we are saying is that this is a challenge not to the United States, but to the whole international community, to the Security Council, to the United Nations. I think one of the most interesting sentences that our President has been using these past few days is to say this will be the United Nations or the League of Nations. And that doesn't matter just for America; it matters for Greece and for many other countries as well.
QUESTION: Do you expect the Europeans to follow you in Iraq, because they followed you in Afghanistan? Now they seem like they don't want to go to a new war (inaudible).
MR. GROSSMAN: With respect, sir, I think the question of whether to follow us is not quite the way to put it. The Europeans made their own choice about what to do in Afghanistan. We're very glad, not to have them following us there, but to have them with us there. And they'll make their own choice about the future as well.
What we have been saying is that this threat that comes from Iraq is a threat not just to the United States, but to Europeans and to Greece, to all the countries in the region. So this is not about following; this is about joining to ensure that Iraqis meet their obligations.
QUESTION: All right, sir. Do you have any proof that Saddam Hussein has biological weapons, and do you have evidence that he is going to use them against America's allies in the region?
MR. GROSSMAN: I think since you and I are speaking on a day when the British have issued their very comprehensive report on Saddam's weapons of mass destruction, we believe that he has these instruments of destruction, and has the intent to get them. That, sir, it seems to me, is the whole story of the past 11 years. This is like a criminal who says, I don't want you to come look at my house. Well, why not? And I think logically people have to conclude that the reason is that there is something there to hide.
QUESTION: Sir, you have the same evidence like the British that Saddam is going to attack the British bases in Cyprus, is going to attack Turkey, he can attack Greece?
MR. GROSSMAN: Again, don't forget, Saddam Hussein has been a leader who has used chemical weapons not only on his own population but on another country, so we think he intends to acquire these weapons. Our whole purpose is to have him comply with Security Council resolutions so you and I and people of the United States and the people of Greece don't ever have to face the question of whether he will use them or not.
QUESTION: So the decision is with this way or the other way is to finish with the problem, avoid the problem of Iraq, ignore the problem of Saddam Hussein?
MR. GROSSMAN: Sir, the decision is to have Iraq comply with its obligations to the international community, and that means not inspections, but disarmament; it means not rhetoric, but action, so that Greece and the United States and other countries in the region are not threatened.
QUESTION: Sir, in a total war that if there is an attack against Saddam Hussein, the Kurds are going to take a preventative (inaudible) and announce a state. What is your theory on that?
MR. GROSSMAN: Our thinking is absolutely clear; that is, we oppose an independent state of Northern Iraq; we oppose the break up of Iraq; we favor completely the territorial integrity of Iraq. We have made that clear to our Turkish allies, to the world at large, and also to the Kurdish parties with whom we have good contact and good relations.
QUESTION: I want to (inaudible) how was -- how has America changed after September 11th (inaudible) the world, how it changed?
MR. GROSSMAN: Let me first of all talk about the world, because I think the world has changed a great deal. I believe the way the world has changed is that all around the world now there areno more excuses made for terrorism. It used to be that we would hear that this person is a freedom fighter, this person has a cause, this person grew up in a broken home. Now people say no, terrorism is just wrong. And when you see all the activity in this world, at the United Nations, at NATO, bilaterally between Greece and the United States, people are saying no to terrorism. And I believe that's a very great achievement. And if I'm right in that regard, I'll simply congratulate the Greek people and the Greek Government on the spectacular success you've all had with November 17. I think this is a wonderful contribution to the war on terrorism.
When you ask me, sir, how the United States has changed, I believe the United States has changed because we have realized that terrorism can strike us at home. We have realized that we have a purpose in this world, and that that is to help other countries and be with other countries in this fight against terrorism. It hasmade people, I think, in America more patriotic. It hasmade people recognize that we have a great country that isworth defending. It has made people more interested in their families. I think we've had all the human reactions that you would expect to September 11th.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) that day? You were in the State Department?
MR. GROSSMAN: Yes, I was here. Secretary Powell, as you remember, was in Lima, Peru, so Deputy Secretary Armitage and I were here. And I tried my very best to support him and the President throughout the day. We were obviously frightened. We were confused. From my windows you can see the Pentagon, so we saw the airplane hit the Pentagon. So you can imagine for all of us we were concerned. But we went back to work. We felt that the most important thing we could do was support the President and Vice President in response to that day. So I spent my day here trying very hard to do whatever I could to support the United States and our allies.
QUESTION: Do you agree that we are not safe anywhere in the world anymore?
MR. GROSSMAN: Well, I think you always have to keep your eyes open and be prudent, but I think what Secretary Powell has said -- I love this quotation -- is that you have to be careful, you have to be prudent, but you can't be terrified. And we want to be a country that welcomes immigrants, welcomes students, welcomes journalists, and we are that country. America can be graded that way and still be careful and still guard our borders and our homeland. So we want to be safe but we don't want to be terrified, and I don't think we are terrified.
QUESTION: I want to ask a question given (inaudible) the Greek terrorism. Are you really satisfied with the job that the Greek Government (inaudible) elimination of the November 17?
MR. GROSSMAN: Absolutely. We think what the Greek Government, the Greek authorities, the Greek people have done in this regard is admirable. Tthe fact that after all of these years an organization that attacked us, that attacked the British and others, has finally been broken up after all of that effort you made, that we made, and we sometimes make together, I think it's a wonderful development(inaudible).
QUESTION: But what is the next phase of this process now? What do you expect from the Greeks?
MR. GROSSMAN: It's now a matter for the Greek justice system, so I wouldn't have any comment on cases that are in court. But if there are still November 17 people and cells out there, we would hope that together, following the leadership of Greece, we would be able to wrap up the rest of this organization. I know that when I saw the Foreign Minister in New York a week or so ago, he said we were making great progress in this regard. So on the area of further investigation, you can count on us. In the area of the Greek justice system, that is a matter for Greece.
QUESTION: You believe now that we are going to have a safe Olympics?
MR. GROSSMAN: I had always believed you were going to have safe Olympics because you all were focused and were going to work on that very, very hard.
QUESTION: On Cyprus, on October 3rd and 4th, (inaudible) New York. Are you optimistic? I mean, do you think that we are going to see a solution soon?
MR. GROSSMAN: Well, I hope so. When you ask me if I'm optimistic, I've always thought of myself as a realistic person. We support the efforts of the United Nations Secretary General. We support everything he is doing to try to bring these two leaders and parties together. What President Clerides does and what Mr. Denktash does I think is very important and helped by the Secretary General. So we very much look forward to his meetings in New York, and I most fervently wish that it would come to some successful resolution.
QUESTION: And for the foreign ministers of Greece and Cyprus, they told you that they're afraid that it's going to get crisis (inaudible) if the accession (inaudible) going to go (inaudible). Do you think that we are going to see a crisis in the region because of the -- this (inaudible) accession?
MR. GROSSMAN: No, sir. Obviously, Mr. Papandreou and Mr. Kasoulides can speak for themselves, but I would describe the conversations that I've had with both of them in New York as kind of the reverse of what you said, which is that all of us felt that there are a number of opportunities that intersect at the end of this year. Consider, as you say, the Cyprus talks in October, and that the European Union will make a statement about aspirants, including Turkey, on the 9th of October. The Turkish election will come on the 3rd of November, and then of course the meeting of the European Union in Copenhagen on the 12th of December. I believe that if we all are smart and we're creative, then we can use this time all together to create not a crisis but a big opportunity for the European Union, for Greece, for Cyprus, and very much for Turkey as well.
QUESTION: If there is no solution, do you still support the accession of Cyprus to European Union?
MR. GROSSMAN: Well, that's too many "ifs" for me at the beginning. Let me just say that our policy all along has been to support the accession of Cyprus because we believe that the accession process is a very important helper into this. It issomething that has added to it. It issomething that makes people want to come forward with a solution. So we support the Secretary General, we support the Helsinki decision of 1999, and we support Cyprus's accession to the European Union.
QUESTION: The last question I have is what is the status of Greek-American relations now? It seems to me that there are no problems with it, eh?
MR. GROSSMAN: I can't think of one. We think Greek-American relations are in wonderful shape. We are well represented by our two ambassadors, yours here and ours in Greece. We see many things exactly the same way. Our foreign ministers work together. Our presidents work together. And so we're very pleased with the status and the warmth and the incredible ties between Greece and the United States.
QUESTION: When do you plan to go to Greece?
MR. GROSSMAN: In November, sir. I've been invited, actually, by a lovely group, the chamber of commerce, to give a speech, and I'm hoping to meet that commitment.
QUESTION: Mr. Grossman, thank you very much.
MR. GROSSMAN: It's my pleasure.
Released on September 26, 2002