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Remarks with Afghan Interim Authority Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah after their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
January 25, 2002

(12:45 p.m. EST)

Secretary Powell with Afghan Interim Authority Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It has been my great privilege to host my new colleague, Foreign Minister Abdullah of the Interim Authority of Afghanistan, here at the State Department. I had the privilege of meeting him last week during my visit to Kabul, as well as spending time with him at the reconstruction conference in Tokyo.

I again, in the presence of the cameras, Mr. Minister, congratulate you and Chairman Karzai and all of your colleagues for the progress that you have made in a short period of time. And I hope you know, Mr. Minister, that the United States is standing alongside you and the Afghan people and Chairman Karzai as you bring hope into their lives and as you make that hope a reality.

I think we have demonstrated that by what the wonderful young men and women of the armed forces of the United States and their coalition partners have done to free Afghanistan from the curse of the Taliban and al-Qaida, and what you have seen us do with respect to humanitarian relief and the efforts we have made toward the reconstruction effort.

As President Bush said at the very beginning of this crisis, we're in it for as long as it takes, and you can count on us. We did the military job, we are performing the humanitarian job, and we will be there for the reconstruction effort.

So, Mr. Minister, we welcome you to Washington and we wish you all the best of success in your new and important responsibilities. Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH: Thank you. Good afternoon. I thank Secretary Powell for his kind remarks and the United States, the Government of the United States, for its support for the people of Afghanistan in the campaign against terror, and also in the efforts of reconstruction and humanitarian assistances for the people of Afghanistan.

Today was an opportunity for me, a unique opportunity, to discuss details of the issue of Afghanistan, all aspects of it, in great deal with Secretary Powell, as well as with the team of the Secretary of State.

Now if you have any questions, I am ready.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have a question for both you and the Foreign Minister. There is a report from Newsweek that on the day that you were visiting that there were threats against you and that the Afghan Government did not share the threats that were posed against you. Was this discussed at all and are you aware of these, and can the Foreign Minister comment?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we didn't discuss it because there is always a general level of threat wherever I travel, and there was nothing specific that day that was of concern to me. The Foreign Minister and I just discussed it coming down the elevator, and he wasn't aware of any threat at that time either, nor do I think the other members of his administration were. But if you would like to say a word.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH: I was not aware of it at all, and I was also informed by Newsweek about it. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Are you pleased at the level of sharing of information on threats against US forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am very pleased at the level of exchange that we are having. It is a very high level of exchange. And if you had been at the meeting we just held, you would have seen it in action as we talked about economic issues, as we talked about security issues, as we talked about relations with the neighbors of Afghanistan. And so, yes, I am very pleased with the level of exchange we are having in military channels, as well as in diplomatic and political channels. Further evidence of this will be when Chairman Karzai comes next week to visit with members of the administration and with President Bush.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you tell us about your meeting this morning? You must be aware of the reports suggesting that the administration may be considering various punitive measures against the Palestinians, including closing their PLO offices. What are you going to do?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are in touch with the Palestinian Authority. I had a very long talk with Chairman Arafat the day before yesterday, and once again pointed out to him the necessity for him taking strong, resolute, irreversible action to get terror under control; to give answers to the international community about the ship that was carrying all of those arms, the Karine A; to bring under control those organizations under his authority that are conducting terrorist acts.

And so we continue to give a strong message to Chairman Arafat that he must act, and we continue to review our policy with respect to the Palestinian Authority and to Chairman Arafat. I expect I will be speaking to him again in the future to see what he is able to do and what progress we can make.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is it an option, then, to sever ties with the Palestinian Authority?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think I have answered the question, and all kinds of options are always out there. But I had a long talk with him the day before yesterday, and he knows what is expected of the Palestinian Authority and of him as the leader of that authority if we are ever going to go forward and get toward a cease-fire and then into a cease-fire so that the Mitchell process can begin and we can get to negotiations that will bring a satisfactory solution to this crisis. So he knows what he needs to do, and of course the United States has a full range of options available to us of a political and diplomatic nature.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you just returned from, as well as Afghanistan, India and Pakistan. India just recently made a nuclear missile test. Have you talked with any Indian leaders about this? Do you think it is provocative in the current climate?

SECRETARY POWELL: I haven't had occasion to talk to any of the Indian leaders about the test. It was a test of a short-range missile. I would just as soon they had not performed that test at this time of high tension, but I don't think it will inflame the situation particularly. It is Republic Day tomorrow in India, a great day of celebration, and we hope that will go off peacefully and none of their celebratory activities will be disrupted in any way.

But it is still a tense situation there. I remain pleased that both sides are looking for a diplomatic solution, and we will continue to work with both the Indian Government and the Pakistani Government to find a way forward that does not lead to a conflict on the subcontinent.

And let me just take the opportunity to congratulate the Indian people on the celebration of their Republic Day.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Mr. Foreign Minister as well, there are increasing and numerous reports that Iran is meddling in your affairs and that there are arms shipments coming in to some of your territories from Iran. Mr. Secretary, do you have anything to say on that, concerns that the US has? And Mr. Foreign Minister, can you confirm any of it?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I will yield to him since your question was "your affairs," meaning his affairs.

FOREIGN MINISTER ABDULLAH: In regards to our neighboring countries, what we expect from our neighboring countries at this stage is to seize this opportunity where there is an interim government which is representative and it is supportive of the political process which will going to lead to the formation of a fully representative multi-ethnic government. From that sort of a situation, every neighboring country of Afghanistan can benefit, and they can benefit from the reconstruction of the country. They can engage in a constructive way in the reconstruction.

But I have heard rumors about it. I have not seen evidences based on fact on it. But I would expect every neighboring country of Afghanistan to build its relations with our country on the principles which will be acceptable for both sides. Those principles will be: mutual respect for the interests of each other; mutual respect for the sovereignty of each other; and, non-interference.


* * *

QUESTION: Did you and the Foreign Minister discuss peacekeeping troops, adding more peacekeeping troops?


QUESTION: Did you and the Foreign Minister discuss adding more peacekeeping troops and going beyond peacekeeping --

SECRETARY POWELL: There is an interest in getting more peacekeepers in, but we didn't get into those details. I think their number is 2,100 today. It will keep going up. The question will eventually rise outside of Kabul (inaudible).

Released on January 25, 2002

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