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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2002 > February

Interview on UNIVISION Network Television

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Interview by Mr. Enrique Gratas
New York, New York
February 1, 2002

MR. GRATAS:  Mr. Secretary, we have (inaudible) new reports from Pakistan about Daniel Pearl.  One is an email sent to the State Department and the other one is a ransom or bounty.  They are asking for $2 million in 36 hours.  We have to believe some of this stuff or --

SECRETARY POWELL:  I really don't know.  I haven't had a chance to determine the authenticity, so to speak, of the various emails, and I can't confirm whether he is alive or dead.  We hope he is alive for the sake of his family, and we hope that the kidnappers will come to their senses and release Mr. Pearl.  He did nothing to them.  He was trying to, frankly, get a story.  He was trying to put their story before the people of the world through the press.  So he is innocent and not deserving of any bad thing to happen to him, especially (inaudible) his family.

MR. GRATAS:  We hope so too, but if the worst happens and we found him dead, what is the next step that you will take? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, at the moment, we don't know who is holding him.  We don't know who the kidnappers are, or we would be doing something about it now.  So would the Pakistan Government.  So we'll just have to wait and see what happens and not jump to conclusions.  Let's hope for the best.

MR. GRATAS:  There's a big controversy domestically and around the world on the prisoners in Cuba.  How do you personally define them? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, they are detainees, and we are having a legal discussion in Washington as to whether we should classify them under the terms of the Geneva Convention or not under the terms of the Geneva Convention.  And we will resolve that in the next several days.

Either way, they will not be accorded prisoner of war status.  They are terrorists.  They are people who were fighting for an illegitimate regime, and therefore their (inaudible) characterization ultimately, I am sure, will be unlawful combatants, not prisoners of war.  The question is whether this should be done through the Geneva Convention, or does the Geneva Convention not apply.  That is as much a legal matter as anything else.  We'll work our way through that in the next couple days. 

MR. GRATAS:  Some people tend to believe that you have some differences with (inaudible) members (inaudible) in that respect. 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Yes, in a legal opinion.  We all have our lawyers.  My lawyers have one view; other lawyers of the administration have a different view. It is an unprecedented legal situation where we went into Afghanistan, went after a regime that we did not recognize because they were harboring terrorists.  And the terrorists themselves, should they be accorded any status whatsoever? 

So it was rather an unprecedented situation, and one should not be surprised that different sets of lawyers and different cabinet officials might have a different perspective.  We did not have a personal fight within the administration.  It was a good legal discussion and policy discussion. 

A point I would like to make, and I hope it's clear to all now, is that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay are being given the best treatment, treatment that makes sure they are getting health care, that they are kept safe, and that they are allowed to practice their religion, and they're getting more than enough food to eat.  They're being very well cared for. 

MR. GRATAS:  So what would happen to them and whatever we will find (inaudible) operations for the future?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, they are being detained for an indefinite period as we work through our interrogation of these prisoners to see what charges might be placed against them and how to dispose of those charges.  All of them are citizens of other countries.  Perhaps some of them will be returned to their countries for prosecution there.  So this will be a deliberative process that will take some time. 

MR. GRATAS:  (Inaudible) on Usama bin Laden and Omar.  Do you know anything about that? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  I don't know.  We don't know if they are alive or dead or, if they are alive, where they might be hiding out.  But the fact of the matter is that Mullah Omar is no longer in charge in Afghanistan; and Usama bin Laden, if he is alive, does not have the same kind of control or authority that he had some time ago.  He's on the run.  He's not running after us right now; he's running to save his own life. 

MR. GRATAS:  Can you say that we are closer to get them (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I just can't answer that because I don't know where they are, so I can't tell you whether we're closer or not.  

MR. GRATAS:  On the coalition (inaudible) formed and worked very well (inaudible) very solid or (inaudible)? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Very solid.  Very solid.  I think a lot of people said this would never stick together; they will never stay together for an extended period of time.  Well, we're into the fifth month now, and not only has the coalition stayed together, it has gotten stronger because everybody has come to the conclusion that terrorism is a problem for each member of the coalition. 

And so they're not doing this for the United States; they're doing it for themselves; they're doing it for a better 21st century; they're doing it to protect civilization.  As long as we keep that common purpose in mind, then I think the coalition will stay together and get stronger.  We'll continue to work on law enforcement matters, on intelligence matters, military matters.  From time to time, as appropriate, we'll cooperate with those countries that need our help, such as the Philippines, who have asked us to assist them in training their military personnel to go after terrorists.  So the coalition is strong, growing, and we'll be responding.

MR. GRATAS:  Are you worried about this fight between -- within Afghanistan between warlords that are trying to get their places and fighting for power there (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL:  It is a concern.  We would not like to see any further conflict in Afghanistan.  But so far it is not of a nature that it's going to affect the ability of the Interim Authority and of Chairman Karzai to move forward.  We hope that these minor problems will be sorted out.

But it also shows how we need to create an Afghanistan national army and police force as soon as possible so that they can take care of these kinds of disturbances. 

MR. GRATAS:  Iran, Iraq and North Korea were mentioned (inaudible) any steps that (inaudible) taking in the next future?

SECRETARY POWELL:  We are always taking a look at our policies with respect to those countries.  The reason the President identified those three as symbolic of that group of countries is that all three of them are involved in sponsoring terrorist activities; they are all involved with the development of weapons of mass destruction or missile systems to deliver such weapons; and they are led by regimes that are very intolerant and dictatorial.  And it is for that reason the President quite clearly pointed out to the world that these are evil regimes -- not evil people living in these countries, but people who are led by evil leaders and evil regimes on top of them.  And so he wanted to make it a stark presentation.  At the same time, there are no war plans on his desk for him to do something tomorrow; but we will continue to have firm policies with respect to these countries. 

The President has said he is inviting them to move away from their past and to join the world that is moving forward, a world that they should want to be a part of, once they stop producing weapons of mass destruction, once they stop producing or trying to produce missiles to deliver such systems, and once they join a world that is more interested in peace, not war, and more interested in the safety of individuals, not terrorism. 

MR. GRATAS:  (Inaudible) for some reason the United States (inaudible) against North Korea, for example.  And what about China (inaudible)? 

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, we have good relations with China, and we are in constant touch with our Chinese colleagues.  President Bush will be visiting China next month.  So we're not planning an invasion of North Korea.  In fact, our policy right now is an offer to North Korea:  We will meet you any time, any place, whenever you're ready, with no agenda to discuss whatever issues exist between us.  And North Korea has not responded to that.  So rather than people sort of looking at us critically about what the President said, they ought to look at North Korea critically for what North Korea has been doing and continues to do.  If one wants to be unhappy with somebody, they should be unhappy with North Korea for the kind of actions it takes to destabilize the region.  And one should be very, very (inaudible) on Korea -- a good word to use -- for what they have done to their people.  There are people starving so that leaders can live good lives and build missiles.  It just doesn't make sense.

MR. GRATAS:  (Inaudible.)  It seems that the United States (inaudible) relations in many, many (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL:  Absolutely.  We have excellent relations with Mexico.  President Fox and President Bush are personally close, but they are politically close as well in terms of their beliefs in democracy, their belief in economic development and reform and trade across borders.  And Foreign Minister Castaneda and I have spent a lot of time together, and we also have similar views as to how we should move the relationship forward. 

There are a number of issues we're working on having to do with cross-border safety, having to do with regularization, having to do with assisting Mexico in every way possible to enjoy the benefits of free trade across our border, making sure that we secure our border to protect both nations.  So we have a lot that's going on with our Mexican colleagues.

MR. GRATAS:  Specifically, about regularization.  (Inaudible) hoping that some kind of agreement is done (inaudible) future and continue (inaudible)  --

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, we're hard at work on the whole process of workers coming into the United States, and what to do about that population of Mexicans residing in the United States right now.  These are difficult issues.  Three million is a lot of people, and we want to do it in a way that shows that we respect the dignity of the Mexicans who are living in the United States.  We also want to do it in a way that will encourage them to go back and forth across the border so that they can be with their families, take some of the success they have enjoyed in the United States back home to inspire others and do good things in their own country, and do it in a way that is faithful to the values of both countries. 

It's a difficult issue, and we were somewhat delayed by the crisis of the last four months, but Foreign Minister Castaneda and I met two weeks ago and wanted to get all of this moving again.

MR. GRATAS:  Do you think it's better to have (inaudible) instead of having (inaudible) of people, and you don't know who they are, and (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, what we're anxious to do is to find a way to control movement into the United States across the border and get rid of the illegal immigration that is taking place and that puts so many people at risk.  And we also recognize that the Mexicans who are living in the United States, either improperly or without authorization, illegally or improperly, are making a contribution to our economy and to our society.  And so we want to show that we value that contribution, but we have to find a way to deal with this large population of unregistered Mexicans in the United States.  And that's what we're working on, but it's going to take a great deal of time.

MR. GRATAS:  Mr. Secretary, some people in the United States are asking for the militarization of the border.  Is that a reality?

SECRETARY POWELL:  I don't think so.  I think that we have improved security along the border, and we have done a better job of protecting the border.  There may be some minor roles for the military, but nobody is thinking in terms of militarization in the sense of stationing military units along the border (inaudible) military units.

MR. GRATAS:  (Inaudible) program in Colombia (inaudible) situation over there.  The FARC, the Revolutionary Forces of Colombia, are in the least a terrorist organization.  (Inaudible) the United States troops now have been in the Philippines.  Are you planning to look at the situation and probably send some troops to Colombia and (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL:  Well, our support to Colombia has been in the counter-narcotics sector.  Of course, we also have a military-to-military relationship with them.  But there are no plans for the United States armed forces to become actively and significantly involved in combat operations in Colombia (inaudible).

The FARC is fighting the government.  The FARC is also terrorizing the citizens of Colombia, and they've done that for many, many years.  And they have now another chance to try to move forward, venture into negotiations with the Government of Colombia in this long armed conflict.

MR. GRATAS:  Argentina, finally, Mr. Secretary.  There were -- Argentina was an unconditional ally of the United States last (inaudible).  And when they came to Washington asking for help, Washington (inaudible).  Any reason for that?

SECRETARY POWELL:  No, I think we're trying to be very helpful.  We meet with our Argentine friends all the time.  We have been telling them consistently over the past six or eight months that they really do have to come up with plans to deal with their financial crisis. 

We've had a number of suggestions.  We have been supportive.  But at the same time, we have been honest with them.  And now, I hope that today or in the next few days, they will be announcing a new economic plan, supported by President Duhalde, and hopefully this will give the international community and the United States sufficient confidence that Argentina is now making the right kinds of choices with respect to their economic future, that will allow them to have confidence in going to the international financial institutions to ask for more help.  So I hope that President Duhalde (inaudible).

MR. GRATAS:  (Inaudible) situation a lot of talks in the last month, a lot of people going to Cuba.  Is there any way that we can say the relations with Cuba will improve in the next year or so?

SECRETARY POWELL:  There's going to be no change in our policy with respect to Cuba.  Whether relations will improve is a question (inaudible) to Castro, who has kept up this dictatorial regime now for many, many years and denied the Cubans so much.  They could be such a contributing part of the American family in the Western Hemisphere, and they could be doing so much better than they are now, if only they had claimed this revolution that is taking place at the end of the 20th and the beginning of the 21st century toward trade opening and toward information technology and all of the things that the people of Cuba could be enjoying if they were part of the democratic family of nations in the Western Hemisphere.

MR. GRATAS:  Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL:  Thanks very much.

Released on February 1, 2002

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