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 You are in: Under Secretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs > Bureau of Public Affairs: Press Relations Office > Press Releases (Other) > 2003 > April
Press Statement
Office of the Spokesman
Brussels, Belgium
April 3, 2003


Background Briefing on Secretary Powell's Meetings With NATO Officials

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary started out, after a brief introduction by Lord Robertson and by Papandreou -- they were the co-hosts. He went through what the military situation on the ground is very briefly, how much effort we make to avoid civilian casualties, how much weíre sensitive to the images on television that are upsetting to European publics, and as upsetting to us.

He then talked briefly about the importance of the U.N., that there has to be a partnership with the U.N. We canít say when that will all start, but that we look forward to Kofi Annan appointing a coordinator or a representative of some kind who can help get the U.N. efforts started. He closed by saying that he would be very interested in hearing from all of his colleagues as to their ideas about how to move ahead on Iraq, how to move ahead on the Middle East. He mentioned briefly that the intention is that as soon as Abu Mazen gets his thing confirmed that the roadmap will be issued and a lot of work will begin to implement the roadmap.

He said that he would be very interested in hearing what all the ideas are of his colleagues around the table, and that itís very important to look ahead to how we can begin working together on establishing democracy, rule of law, etc., etc. in Iraq and not spend any time Ö.

QUESTION: Weíre back to Iraq now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes.

QUESTION: Thatís right. We know their ideas on the Middle East. Weíre talking back to Iraq now, right?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Sorry, right. I switched back to Iraq. And how important it was for us to look ahead on Iraq, to figure out all the ways that we can work together on Iraq and not spend any time debating the things that divided us in the past. He said that we will look to endorsement by international organizations, international authorities, the U.N., for an Iraqi interim authority, because of the importance of their being able to function as part of the international community.

Then, his presentation was maybe 10 to 15 minutes. And then every single other foreign minister in the room spoke. Each one was meant to be brief. They were fairly brief. And to summarize, each one focused on the following: They focused on, number one, how glad they were that he took the initiative to come talk to them, that they thought it was not only a very important gesture but an important way to get the dialogue going again. They all emphasized the importance of a dialogue rather than a debate. That they appreciated his asking them for their views of how we might begin working together on Iraq. Virtually every single one of them said that they were very happy to hear that he mentioned the importance of a role for the U.N. They looked forward to talking about that as the situation develops so that we have a better sense of what that would be.

And every single one of them mentioned how important it was that the United States was committing to, not only issuing the roadmap, but working to implement the roadmap in the period ahead.

Those were the major themes from each of them. There was a summing up at the end in which the Secretary said that one of the things heís taking away from this is that as heís listened to all the different ideas about the U.N. role, that this is a dialogue, that there have been no decisions made about what the role of the U.N is, since after all the U.N. isnít even sitting here. So we canít make decisions for them. They have to be part of the dialogue.

QUESTION: They said that. Or the Secretary said that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The Secretary said that. The Secretary said that. The U.N. isnít sitting here. We canít make decisions about the U.N. Theyíre not here.

QUESTION: Apart from saying that the U.N. should have a role, an important role, did he actually put any flesh on that and say what role and how it would be related to the ...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

QUESTION: He used the word, ďpartnershipĒ in his words?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. Partnership with the U.N., important role of the U.N. What he said at the end is itís important we not use words that make it look like we made a decision about what that role is exactly because itís too early to determine that, number one. And number two it cannot be determined without further discussions with the U.N. itself since Kofi Annan himself doesnít want to be the director of Iraq.

QUESTION:. I can only think of two constructions of what youíre telling us that the others said.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Okay.

QUESTION: Either that in two magical hours all the opposition to the U.S. approach for post-war Iraq is melted away. If thatís the spin youíre trying to give us, it ainít going to go down. The second construction thatís possible is he didnít ask for any decision, that he made the point this is all preliminary discussion.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thatís right. Thatís exactly right.

QUESTION: Weíve got to talk to the U.N. and, by the way, did he say when heís going to see Kofi Annan?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

QUESTION: Because he told us heíd see him soon.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I donít know when heís going to see him. He didnít say.

QUESTION: So, everything is sort of on hold?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Itís the beginning of a discussion. Itís the beginning of a dialogue. Nothing is decided. At the end, he said he very much appreciated all the comments. He wanted to take them back to Washington for discussion with his cabinet colleagues, what their views are about the U.N.

But the critical thing is Ďnothing is decided.í Too early to decide. Not possible to decide. But one of the ...

QUESTION: Certainly outside of the U.N. itís too early?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Outside the U.N, certainly itís too early to decide.

QUESTION: Did anyone ask him what U.N. role he does envisage? Did they press him on this point?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Partly because of the nature of the discussion. He speaks. They each speak. By then weíre already way past time. So he only had about a minute to respond. So they presented their comments on what he had said or on what the others had said.

So thereís a whole range between us, which is why we need to talk to the U.N., about what kind of role. Is there going to be a coordinator? Would that be a good idea? How to get the U.N. humanitarian workers in, because of the security situation? How is all that going to work, which the U.N. has to help us out with? All the way to, the U.N. has to be in charge.

QUESTION: What about NATO peacekeepers?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Was there any talk of NATO peacekeepers?

QUESTION: Because [Spanish Foreign Minister Ana] Palacio thought maybe itís time to get into it.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: I believe Iím correct in saying there was zero talk of NATO peacekeepers there. One or two might have said one thing to keep in mind is the U.N. has a role, the EU has a way of participating, NATO might even have a way of participating. But absolutely nothing except that. Thatís the sort of thing that could come up now, in the next bit [meeting].

QUESTION: Oh, whatís now?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Now [the next meeting] is NATO only.

QUESTION: What was this earlier?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This [previous meeting] was NATO and the EU together.

QUESTION: And now weíre just going to have NATO?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: And now itís just NATO.

QUESTION: On the question of international endorsement of the interim authority, how much opposition was there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: None. None. The way it was discussed ...

QUESTION: Was there any support for it?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The way most people discussed it, they all said it was important for the U.N. to participate, that the U.N. have a role. And there are all kinds of gradations of what that role could be. But, U.N. endorsement, not only of the Iraqi interim authority or whatever, but U.N. endorsement of, approval, participation Ė there were all kinds of words used Ė for any arrangement as there is a transition from the military to the civilian authorities. Some of the things that are obvious is that you have got to have a U.N. authorized way to sell the oil, so that thereís ownership - legal ownership - of the oil under Oil for Food [program].

QUESTION: Did he speak of the U.N. coordinator, which is what Ö

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: He did mention the importance of a U.N. representative or U.N. coordinator Ė I think he said U.N. coordinator. He said we have to be careful about what titles, because we donít want to use titles that connote the wrong thing. So I donít know what title it would have.

QUESTION: But some U.N. ...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Somebody that we can work with.

QUESTION: Was there any talk of a conference in relation to the interim authority in Baghdad conference?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There were a couple of references to ĎWouldnít it be a good idea to have something like the Bonn conference?í

QUESTION: Not from him [Secretary Powell] though?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

QUESTION: On the roadmap, I know how hell-bent they are. Oh yeah, I know where theyíre coming from.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Every one of them mentioned the roadmap. At the end, in his [Secretary Powellís] sum-up, he said I really appreciate the support for the roadmap, but please understand that it canít just be issued and magical things happen. And itís not going to be just imposed. Itís going to take a heck of a lot of work to get the sides to implement the roadmap. But President Bush has committed to pushing very hard.

QUESTION: He and Rice have said itís not negotiable. Theyíve already caved to the Europeans. So heís not pulling back on that?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. Heís not pulling back on that. And several asked about that. They said, ďAre you sure you mean itís not to be negotiated?Ē and he said, ďItís going to be issued the way it is.Ē

QUESTION: And then implementing it is the serious ...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Implementing is the serious issue and thatís why weíve asked the Europeans for help with this.

QUESTION: In the way it is?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. In the way it is.

QUESTION: But with this level of detail on the U.N. role, heís not going into any more detail in the bilats? Is that where heís giving ...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Thatís right. In the bilats heís giving exactly the same thing.

QUESTION: Okay.

QUESTION: Humanitarian assistance? Anything specific?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Mostly the focus was on the importance of humanitarian assistance. In his presentation he talked about how much he appreciates the E.U. humanitarian money thatís already been put forward by Chris Patten, the importance of getting the humanitarian assistance in, the importance of the U.N. security coordinator authorizing ...

QUESTION: But nothing more specific in terms of (unintelligible) . . . clearing mines?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. There was no real discussion of any specifics like that. It was much more concept.

QUESTION: So (unintelligible) will be provider of . . .

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Exactly.

QUESTION: Iím not trying to put words in your mouth but it sounds like there was no assertion of positions in any serious terms. It sounds rather amiable.

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: The atmosphere was really good.

QUESTION: Are you sure the French were there?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Yes. And the French were the same. Letís talk about the future, looking ahead, important to do that, atmosphere was good because he came. Because he took the initiative to talk to them. Because he said that itís important to get the roadmap out without it being renegotiated. Because he said that we want an important role for the U.N.

QUESTION: Oh, youíre talking about Ö

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: This is my Ďwhy did it go well?í

QUESTION: But on Iraq, nobody said, ĎOh, youíre rewarding the belligerents?í Or ĎYouíre trying to impose democracy on the back of a cruise missile?í None of this heated nastiness?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: None. None.

QUESTION: That was Ivanov, of course. But Chirac spoke of the belligerents getting rewarded by running Iraq?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: There was no talk like that.

QUESTION: No such talk?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No talk like that at all. It was good. A lot of work still to do. That was the other thing. We have a lot of work to do.

QUESTION: Whatís next date? Any ...

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: Well, right now we have the NAC meeting, so there will be a lot more discussion of that kind of thing.

QUESTION: But he hasnít said something like, ďIíll see you at the NATO spring meeting,Ē or maybe something in between?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No. There was some talk of the U.S.-E.U. summit, but thatís not until the end of June.

QUESTION: So he didnít set up for two weeks from now, huh?

SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL: No.

Released on April 3, 2003

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