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Interview by Brit Hume of FOX News Sunday

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Tokyo, Japan
January 20, 2002

Aired 9:05 a.m. EST

MR HUME: From the hunt for Usama bin Laden to tensions between India and Pakistan, Secretary of State Colin Powell has been getting a firsthand progress report during meetings with Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, Afghanistan's Interim President Hamid Karzai, and Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee. Secretary Powell now joins us from Tokyo where he and other world leaders are meeting to discuss rebuilding Afghanistan's tattered economy.

Good morning, Mr. Secretary. I guess I should say good evening to you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning, Brit.

MR HUME: Talk to me a little bit about the thing we all woke up to in Washington on Saturday morning, which was news that a Boeing plane purchased by China for use by the Chinese president had been found, the Chinese said, filled with electronic eavesdropping devices. What about that, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't have anything to add to what has been released in Washington. We simply don't comment on these sorts of matters. In my discussions with Chinese leaders, this has never been raised.

MR HUME: And is there -- does that mean, presumably, that the planned presidential visit and all are going forward and not a word has been said, as far as you know --

SECRETARY POWELL: We have been in touch with the Chinese Government. They were delighted when we notified them that President Bush would be available next month to travel to China, and they gave us an instantaneous response, a welcome come on ahead. So we are looking forward to that trip and I don't expect anything to derail that trip.

MR HUME: And can you assure us that, while nothing has been raised at your level, that at other levels in the government that this issue has not arisen?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not aware of any contacts between us and the Chinese Government concerning this so-called matter that we read about in the newspapers yesterday.

MR HUME: I want to ask you about what your sense now is on progress in trying to prevent what looks like it could be an all-out war between India and Pakistan -- troops massed on the border, a continuing dispute there. Where does the matter stand, as far as you can tell?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, based on my conversations in both Islamabad and in New Delhi, I think things have improved a little bit in the last week. I am encouraged that both President Musharraf and Prime Minister Vajpayee are committed to finding a political and diplomatic solution.

And even though it is still a tense situation, we have armies facing one another at close distance, which is not a desirable situation. They are committed to try to find a peaceful solution. And I think all of us were impressed, and the Indians especially were impressed, by President Musharraf's speech last weekend where he really came down hard against violence and talked about moderation and talked about a jihad which lifts people up, gets them out of poverty, gives them health care, gives their children education, and not a jihad which goes to war to destroy innocent people.

And he has taken action on that vision of his and he started to close down extremist organizations and pick up their leaders, and we have also seen some actions across the line of control in Kashmir separating the two sides, which are encouraging. So I hope that we can find a way forward, but I don't want to minimize the dangerous nature of the situation. Until we get things back to normal and we can de-escalate, we have to be concerned.

MR HUME: Speaking of de-escalation, have you received any commitments or expressions of willingness from either side to withdraw the forces that are now arrayed basically across that long border between those two countries?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the Indians are looking for more action on the part of the Pakistani Government to put reality to the vision that President Musharraf laid out. And so it is going to take some time before sufficient confidence has been built up between the two sides before the troops start moving back. But the more important thing is that I think a political decision has made that, let's find a diplomatic solution and let's not let our finger be on the trigger of this loaded gun that we see at the border.

MR HUME: Well, one issue, of course, that has been a sticking point between the two countries are those twenty Islamic militants that the Indians would like to see turned over. Any progress on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have been in contact with President Musharraf and, as he has said previously, he is examining that list closely. And as he said in his speech last week, he doesn't rule out taking appropriate action which might include sending back those who are not Pakistani citizens if they can be found. So we are continuing to examine that list. The Indians have provided more information concerning these individuals to us and to the Pakistani Government, and we will what develops over the next several days.

MR HUME: Speaking of India, of course, there have been reports that the US Government in this administration, and in prior ones as well, or at least in one prior one as well, went to bat on behalf of Enron, the now bankrupt Texas energy company that is so much the subject of headlines here in this country. What about that kind of intervention? Is that normal, appropriate, in your view? Is it anything that involved you at any stage? What about that issue with India over that contract that was in dispute?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is very normal for the State Department, the Commerce Department, the Treasury Department, and officials in the White House, to get in touch with other governments on specific problems dealing with American firms to push American products, to encourage other nations to take a look at American products. And when a difficulty arises of the kind that Enron faced in India, it would not be unreasonable for the United States Government to express an interest in it and try to find a solution. So there was nothing inappropriate with those contacts.

In my case, I will have to go through all of our memoranda of conversations that I have had written up as a result of my meetings with various Indian officials, and I don't have any direct recollection of having raised it. But we will double-check because I don't want to be suggesting that I didn't, but, if I did, it wouldn't be the slightest bit abnormal for me to have done so. I raise commercial issues all the time with foreign leaders.

MR HUME: Do you recall being aware of the issue and/or asking one of your subordinates to work the issue for you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I knew all about the power plant, I knew about the difficulty that that plant was in, and I knew about the dispute with those states in India and the Enron plant. And it was something that was important to an American company, and why shouldn't the American Government try to help one of its companies that is having difficulty with a foreign government? That is why we have trade representatives overseas. We have our embassies equipped to deal with such matters. We have economic counselors. And so there is nothing nefarious in the fact that the United States Government properly contacted at some level or different levels another government with respect to an American commercial interest.

MR HUME: You have got a kind of delicate diplomatic situation with Saudi Arabia. There have been news reports here this week indicating that the Saudis sooner or later, and perhaps sooner, would like our military bases out of their country and that that may go forward. Has that come to your attention, sir, and what do you know about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: The only thing that has come to my attention is the one press story that has generated all of the questions about this issue. I am in constant touch with Saudi officials. I spoke to Prince Saud, my colleague, the foreign minister of Saudi Arabia, just a few days ago -- Prince Bandar, the ambassador to the United States, just a couple of days ago as well -- and I have heard no such suggestion of the kind reported in the paper.

As I have always said, though, we are constantly reviewing our footprint. Secretary Rumsfeld wants to make sure that our forces are distributed properly, to serve our military interests in the region, but we have not been handed any eviction notice or given warning of an eviction notice coming from the Saudi Government. We have good relations with them. We constantly are in touch with them at a military level and at a diplomatic level, and so I am not aware of the basis for the story.

MR HUME: Well, let's set an eviction notice aside, if we can. Have you been made aware of uneasiness on the part of the Saudis, or perhaps renewed uneasiness or additional uneasiness on the part of the Saudis about our continuing presence there, and has there been any discussion about how that presence might be reduced, made less visible -- anything of that kind?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know of those discussions. They would probably take place in defense channels more so than in State Department channels, but it has not reached any level of discussion that brought it to the top levels of the State Department. But it wouldn't be unusual for our people to be discussing with the Saudis exactly how we are distributed throughout Saudi Arabia. We have no interest in keeping forces there beyond the need for those forces, and we shouldn't impose ourselves on a government beyond the absolute minimum requirement that we have.

So the fact that some discussions might be taking place is quite normal, but we have not received the kind of notice, or there have been no discussions of the kind suggested in that newspaper story or any comments coming from the Saudis that would suggest that kind of action on their part.

MR HUME: The question of the Saudis' participation in the war on terrorism and their cooperation with us has been raised repeatedly, and there was a sense that the Saudis have been less than fully forthcoming. I want to direct your attention to a comment that Senator Carl Levin, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, had the other day. "They act," he said, "as if somehow or another they are doing us a favor, and I think the war against terrorism," Senator Levin says, "has got to be fought by countries who really realize that it is in everybody's interest to go after terrorism."

What is your reaction to Senator Levin's view of Saudi Arabia?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they are not doing it because they think they're doing us a favor. They're doing it because they understand the seriousness of this issue. You have to remember, the Saudis broke diplomatic relations with the Taliban. Remember that Usama bin Laden was a Saudi citizen who had his citizenship taken away by the Saudi Arabian Government. They have been full partners with us in this campaign against terrorism and they have responded to all the requests we have made of them. We have good cooperation on intelligence matters, on law enforcement matters, in chasing down financial records.

They take seriously the fact that a lot of these terrorists who struck America on the 11th of September were Saudis. This isn't a pleasant subject for them. And so they are anxious to root up, rip out, this kind of terrorist infrastructure within Saudi Arabia, and they have been working closely with us. Is there more that they will probably be doing in the days and weeks ahead? I am quite sure that we will have more requests of them, and I am quite sure they are doing things on their own without us requesting it.

MR HUME: Let me ask you about the continuing search for Usama bin Laden. Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, is now saying that he thinks that bin Laden is dead. One of bin Laden's former associates from the '80s who knew him well says the same thing. There is this question of whether he needed kidney dialysis and may have died of disease.

What is your latest information on that, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: The latest I have is that we do not know where he is and we do not know whether he is dead or alive, and so the search continues. We will use all the means at our disposal to find him and bring him to justice. And as President Bush has said repeatedly, we will stick with it, whether it takes us one day, one month, or ten years. But he will be brought to justice if he is alive, and if he is not alive, then he has been brought to justice and we may never find the remains, but we'll keep looking.

MR HUME: And your evaluation of the suggestion by President Musharraf that he is dead, how much weight do you give that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no way of making a judgment on that matter, and I think that President Musharraf was just speculating. He said he thought that might be the case. I don't know if he had any evidence for it other than his belief that Usama bin Laden was in need of dialysis and, in the absence of that, had died. But I think that is speculation on his part, but you had better put the question to the president.

MR HUME: Now, we have mission underway in the Philippines, which is of course where apparent associated terrorist operations associated with Usama bin Laden have been active. The New York Times said in an editorial yesterday, "So far, the administration has provided only vague and conflicting descriptions about the American role," speaking about the Philippines, "suggesting that officials either have not thought through the plan or are being deceptive about it."

How do you react to that, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think there is any deception associated with this. We have worked with our Filipino colleagues in coming up with a concept whereby we would send American trainers in to help make them more proficient in the hunt for terrorists in their own country. It seems to me that is what the campaign against terrorism should be about. And we had the cooperation of the president of the Philippines, and I hope the mission will be able to go forward. And whatever explanations are required, I am sure that they will be forthcoming from the Philippine Government and from the Defense Department, and I am sure that in the near future when I testify before the Congress in February I will also be able to answer any questions that there may be with respect to this mission.

MR HUME: Now let me ask you about the Middle East, a particularly hideous terrorist incident the other night during that bat mitzvah ceremony. We have a comment from the Syrian delegate to the UN Security Council on Friday. His name is Fayssal Mekdad. And he said, "Not much different from the scene of the World Trade Center." He was talking about attacks by Israeli forces on Palestinian targets there. "Not much different from the scene of the World Trade Center which was destroyed by the terrorists, and we have all agreed here to combat and eliminate."

What about that comment, and what about the general situation there, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: The situation is very dangerous and very difficult. I am not going to start commenting on various Syrian diplomatic statements. But it is a difficult situation. The United States put down a vision of the way we wanted things to turn out and where we wanted to go. The President gave a powerful statement at the United Nations General Assembly, the first president who called for the Palestinian state to live side by side with Israel. And I gave a speech in Louisville which gave a more comprehensive statement about what both sides should do.

We haven't been able to get this moving on track because of the continued violence. General Zinni has been to the region twice and I hope he will be able to go back again when conditions permit him to.

And so what we have to talk about is how do we get the violence down and not go chasing off in hysterical Syrian statements.

MR HUME: Secretary of State Powell, thank you very much for joining us this morning. Thank you.

Released on January 20, 2002

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