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Interview by Sam Donaldson Of ABC's This Week

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

Aired 11:05 a.m. EST

MR. DONALDSON: Secretary Powell, welcome.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, Sam.

MR. DONALDSON: Good morning. The Chinese apparently have found listening devices in a plane that we sold them for their president. How serious is this matter?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I have read those news reports, but I don't have anything to add beyond what we have said back in Washington that we don't comment on such matters.

MR. DONALDSON: Has the Chinese Government raised this in any way with us?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, in all the conversations I have had with Chinese authorities over the last several months, this has never been raised.

MR. DONALDSON: Do you think this matter would disrupt the summit planned late next month between President Bush and President Jiang Zemin?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't see any reason to think so. We have received acceptance, of course, from the Chinese of the presidential visit, and I know they are looking forward to it. They are quite excited about it, as are we.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, is this a matter, sir, of where all sides bug each other, as when the Soviets bugged our embassy in Moscow?

SECRETARY POWELL: Sam, I don't have any details beyond what I have said to you, and that is we don't comment on such matters. So I am not confirming or denying; we just don't comment on such matters.

MR. DONALDSON: All right, let's talk about Saudi Arabia. You have said that you have had no contacts with officials there about the removal of US troops, but clearly some other people in Washington have, and I want to ask you to tell us about the pros and cons of removing US forces after the war in Afghanistan is concluded.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have had US forces in Saudi Arabia since the end of the Gulf War, and they serve a useful purpose there as a deterrent to Saddam Hussein; but beyond that, as a symbol of American presence, influence and need to have US forces in the region. And we have forces in other countries in the Persian Gulf area as well.

We have always wanted to maintain a presence in that part of the world for a variety of reasons. The Saudis have been good hosts and our troops have been good guests. I know that Secretary Rumsfeld is constantly looking at the footprint of what forces we have out there, but in my conversations with Saudi leaders as recently as just about four or five days ago with Prince Saud, I have had no suggestion from them that they were about to ask us to leave. And so that is the story, and I think that is the same thing that Secretary Rumsfeld would tell you.

MR. DONALDSON: Do we have to be sensitive to the fact that the Saudi ruling family is under great pressure from a great portion of its population to force US troops out? Do we have to take that into account?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I am not aware that the Saudi family is under such great pressure from the population for us to leave. I think we are good guests. They know that we are there as part of a collective defense agreement that we have them, and we have come to their aid before. And obviously we try not to interfere with Saudi life and we try not to be a problem to any of the countries in which we have our troops, and for that reason I think we are welcome.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, do you think that we are going to keep US forces there, assuming the Saudi Government approves, indefinitely? Or will there come a time when we may want to remove them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there may well come a time when we want to draw them down or shift them somewhere else or remove them. I hope the world turns into the kind of the place in the future that we will all be proud of, and the kind of place we dreamed of where we won't need these kinds of deployments. But as long as these deployments are needed and serve a purpose, then I think they will be welcome by the countries in the region, as long as we make the case to them and they understand why our troops are there and we handle ourselves in a very responsible and appropriate manner.

MR. DONALDSON: One of Usama bin Laden's objectives seems to be to have forced us out of Saudi Arabia, so let me ask you about him. What is the latest? Dead, alive, sick from kidney failure? What?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't the slightest idea. I don't think anyone really knows where he is or whether he is dead or alive. But you can be sure that we are in hot pursuit. We are looking. We are using all of the means available to us to try to locate him and to bring him to justice.

MR. DONALDSON: Secretary Powell, let's talk about Enron and India for a moment and the Dabhol power plant. Have you in any way had conversations, or in any way discussed this, with Indian officials or Enron?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't recall any discussions I have had with Indian officials about the plant and Enron. But if I had been asked by my staff or by Enron to discuss this with Indian officials, it wouldn't have been inappropriate for me to do so as the Secretary of State representing a major US company in dealings with a foreign government. That is one of the roles played by the Department of State and the Secretary of State.

But in this case, I don't have any recollection. I would have to go through all of the various memorandums of conversation of the meetings I have had with Indian officials in the year that I have been Secretary. And I might find something, but it wasn't a major item of discussion even if I did find something. And it wouldn't be anything out of the ordinary if I had done so.

MR. DONALDSON: Well, when you go through your files, maybe you would find something because it strikes some people that if the Vice President of the United States felt it important enough for US interests to discuss it, surely the Secretary of State might have been asked to discuss it.

SECRETARY POWELL: I might have been. I don't have a recollection of it and I haven't had a chance to check all the memcons. But I don't recall discussing it, and I would discuss such a matter if it had been brought to my attention to discuss. We have hundreds and hundreds of commercial contacts between American businesses and countries all over the world. We are a trading nation. We want our companies to be out there putting in facilities such as power plants and all kinds of other things with nations around the world, and that is one of the roles of the Commerce Secretary, the Treasury Secretary, and the Secretary of State.

So had I been asked, I wouldn't have found it the least bit unusual to examine the case, see what the issue was, and raise it with the Indian Government. I raise commercial issues with governments all the time when my staff brings it to my attention as something that needs to be raised with a particular country.

MR. DONALDSON: Finally, Secretary Powell, Israeli tanks move within 50 yards of Yasser Arafat's headquarters because of the latest killings in Israel. How near are we to another flash point there?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is a very dangerous situation. I thought we were making great progress with the President's statement at the United Nations General Assembly, the speech I gave in Louisville, Kentucky, and then with General Zinni going over to begin security discussions between the two sides. But we always slide back downhill because of violence, and when you have the kind of senseless violence, terrible, terrible tragedies of the kind we saw at that celebration of a young girl's bat mitzvah, that just sets us back. And then responses take place, and then a response comes back the other way, and we don't make progress.

Nevertheless, the United States will remain engaged and involved because, at the end of the day, we are going to have to find a way for these two peoples to live in peace in this one region.

MR. DONALDSON: Secretary Powell, thanks very much for joining us today.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Sam.



Released on January 20, 2002

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