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Remarks with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
January 23, 2003

Secretary Powell with British Foreign Secretary Jack StrawSECRETARY POWELL: -- many conversations on the issues of the day. We will be having more conversations after this press conference, but we have spent some time talking about the situation in North Korea as well as the situation with respect to Iraq.

We are looking forward to the report of the chief inspectors on Monday to the Security Council with respect to Iraq's compliance with the requirements of UN Resolution 1441. As the President has repeatedly said, he is hopeful for a peaceful solution, but we must not mistake the will of the international community to see this matter is resolved.

Resolution 1441, which was voted unanimously by the Security Council 15-0 does not deal with inspectors as much as it deals with Iraq. It gives Iraq one last opportunity to come into compliance with its obligations under the various previous UN resolutions, and it also makes clear that if Iraq does not act in a responsible manner and disarm itself with the inspectors assisting in that process, then it is the responsibility of the Security Council, the same 15 members, with new membership now, of course, since it changed over at the beginning of the year, to consider what should be done about this.

And so this is a process that is unfolding, and we will listen carefully to the inspectors' reports on Monday and then be in consultation with our friends and allies around the world, and participate in the discussions within the Security Council. And then decisions will be forthcoming from those consultations and that discussion.

But let's not lose sight of the fact that the issue is the disarmament of Iraq, not how much more time the inspectors need, but how much more time should we give Iraq when they have not used the time they have already been given to do what is required of them, and that is to disarm.

There are questions that must be asked. Why are they trying to deceive the inspectors? Why are they not allowing reconnaissance to take place? Why are they hiding documents in the homes of individuals? Why are we just starting to discover things that should have been declared? Why was the declaration so false?

All of these are relevant questions that we will put to the two inspection chiefs and put to our Council colleagues as the debate continues next week and until we determine what the appropriate actions should be. And this will be a judgment that the Security Council will have to make, and of course each member of the Security Council, including the United States, reserves the right to act in a way that's consistent with its international obligations as well as its own national interests.

We hope it can be resolved peacefully, but, once again, we must understand that it may require the use of force. It is the deployments that we have made and the United Kingdom has made in recent weeks that we think have put pressure on Iraq to get even this passive cooperation, but flawed and incomplete and inadequate cooperation that has been received so far. And we'll continue to our discussions about this and other issues after this press conference, but I would invite my colleague to say a few words.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you very much, and it's a great pleasure for me to be with my good friend and colleague, Secretary Powell, here this morning. Secretary Powell has described the issues we've been discussing. I just wanted to say this about Iraq. As Secretary Powell has said, we negotiated 1441 it was a US/UK draft. There was a high degree of skepticism in some quarters when we started negotiating it that there would ever be any level of consensus; still less unanimity in the international community.

But as we negotiated it, because people saw the strength of the case against Iraq, they came together to pass 1441. And again, as Secretary Powell has just said, 1441 imposes obligations on Iraq. One of the things that's happened because of Iraq's continuing record of deceit and delay over many years is that the onus of proof has shifted from the international community to Iraq. And the resolution itself makes that very clear.

People sometimes say, "Why Iraq? What are the inspectors going to find?" And some suggest this is some kind of hype game of hide-and-seek that only if the inspectors find something dramatic is there proof that Iraq has "failed to comply." It's not like that. What the last lot of inspectors, UNSCOM, said to the United Nations in February, 1999, just after they had been forced out by Saddam Hussein, was that amongst other things unaccounted for were 3,000 tons of precursor chemicals; 360 tons of bulk chemical warfare agents, including one and a half tons of the deadly VX nerve agent; 30,000 special munitions for delivery of chemical and biological agents; and 550 mustard gas shells. Any of those sets of munitions could cause lethal damage across the region and could be used in terrorism across the world.

Saddam Hussein has not yet explained where these are. He has, yes, ensured that traffic inspectors allow UN inspectors' vehicles through "on red." But that is not compliance. And time is running out for him to comply fully with the terms of 1441.

As I've said, we don't see January the 27th as a deadline, and it was never set down as a deadline when we were negotiating 1441. But it is an important moment at which the United Nations needs to signal the determination which it set out very clearly on the 8th of November about the necessity of resolving this issue.

Thank you very much.

QUESTION: Secretary Straw, can I ask you, sir, about your government's position? How long might Britain be willing to string along with the Security Council considering, as you have noticed, French, German, et cetera, opinion, or abandon that approach and stand with the United States and a handful of other allies that want to do something about this without further delay?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, I'm afraid I don't see the dichotomy in that way. I was in the United Nations General Assembly when the President of the United States made that wonderful speech on September the 12th setting out his faith in the United Nations. And that faith was, as it turned out, well-placed on November the 8th when 1441 was passed.

That sets out obligations on Iraq and responsibilities for the United Nations. And our position, I think, is exactly the same as that of the United States Government, which is that we wish to maintain that faith in the United Nations but there has to be a reciprocal responsibility shown by the United Nations. And both Prime Minister Blair and I and the British Government have always said that, given that we can't predict the final outcome of discussions inside the UN, we have to reserve the position as to what decisions we will take if there is no clear resolution within the UN.


QUESTION: The kind of disagreements between Paris and Berlin, on the one hand, and Washington on the other, to what extent do you think that affects Britain's position in Europe, whether negatively or positively?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, look, you can always write these things up in that way. What I know about 1441 was that it was supported actively by France. They voted for it. They were involved in its negotiation. And I also know, because I was in the room when it happened, that Germany fully supported the terms of 1441, including explicitly its final paragraph saying that Iraq would have to accept serious consequences from a failure to comply at the Prague NATO summit in November. And that was a position of the German Government as well.

We've known since the summer that Germany was not going to be willing to take part under any circumstances in military action, and that, of course, is a decision for them. But I don't know any representative within the European Union who does not accept the overwhelming need to take positive and effective action about Iraq.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, both Secretaries, please. If I could ask you, why do you think it has been so difficult to persuade principally the French and others that the onus, the burden of proof, should be on Iraq, not on this coalition to produce a smoking gun? And what do you think, down the road, the impact would be on the United Nations if the coalition of the willing were to proceed without the backing of the United Nations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think France and Germany do understand that the obligation is on Iraq and if there is any confusion about that, I'm sure we will clear it up in the days ahead in our conversations with them. There are different ideas right now as to how to proceed. And the United States believes that the best way to proceed is to keep showing determination, political determination, and military determination with our deployments, deployments, which as Secretary Rumsfeld said the other day, support diplomacy.

And now let's wait and see what the inspectors say on Monday with respect to the degree of cooperation they have received or not received, what they believe the situation is, and then we'll have a debate.

And so, I do not rule out that a solution would be found either, for a peaceful way to do it, or the use of military force that would draw the strong support of the Council. This is a beginning debate, not the end of the debate. And even though there are sharp differences now, as reported in the press, and clearly there are sharp differences, there were sharp differences when we also started with 1441 at the beginning. But 1441 is clear, and everybody signed up to it, to include the Germans by extension at the NATO Summit, as Secretary Straw said. And that was clear.

They are in material breach now. They have been in the past. They have a chance to fix the situation by disarming themselves. It's very clear what they had to do. The inspectors were a means to help them disarm. And if they did not disarm, if they did not meet the terms of 1441, then they were subject to serious consequences. And that was the final part of 1441, which was signed up on by the French as well as 14 other nations at the time.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: All countries come at these important issues from slightly different perspectives. And it's no different today than it was, in a sense, has been. But as Secretary Powell has said, 1441 was a unanimous decision. My own view is that one of the reasons why it took such time and attention to negotiate was because everybody in the room knew that what they were signing up to in that resolution was the consequences of the resolution, as well.

Indeed, the consequences could not have been more clearly spelled out. In the last paragraph, paragraph 13, where it says "if Iraq fails to comply, serious consequences will follow." And everybody knew, too, that serious consequences means only one thing: force. President Chirac is on record, himself, as accepting that force may have to be used in order to enforce the will of the United Nations.

So yes, as the Secretary said, there are varying reports of different opinions at the moment, but everybody has agreed of the seriousness of the deceit and delay of Saddam Hussein and the threat that he poses and of the need for it to be dealt with.

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me add, yes -- I want to talk to the second point. The United Nations came together and responded to the challenge that President Bush laid down on the 12th of September. And that resulted in 1441, 15-0. The international community spoke clearly in that resolution. For the international community now to say, "Nevermind. I'll walk away from this problem," or ignore it, or allow it to be strung out indefinitely with no end, I think would be a defeat for the international community and a serious defeat for the United Nations process.

FOREIGN MINISTER STRAW: Perhaps I could just add that -- because I often read stuff about exceptionalism and isolationism here. I was in the General Assembly on the 12th of September when the President made his speech. And he opened the speech, in a sense, by renewing his commitment to the United Nations by announcing that the United States would be rejoining UNESCO. And you could hear and feel the sense around the room that he was a President really committed to this route. And by your deeds shall you judge them. This administration has shown real commitment to the United Nations, but as ever, commitments have to be reciprocal.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you have spoken about your optimism about getting the agreement of the Security Council for the next steps forward. Does that mean you want another resolution if the use of force should become necessary?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's an open question right now. I think we have always held the position that there is probably sufficient authority in earlier resolutions, or in 1441. But we know that many of our colleagues in the Security Council would prefer to see a second resolution if it comes to the use of military force.

What will happen next week is the inspectors will report and there will be debate that day, there will be debate again on the 29th. I'm sure all of the heads of state and government will be talking to one another, and then a judgment will be made as to how to proceed from that point on. But I would not rule anything in or anything out at this point. We will see how it unfolds.

QUESTION: What do you both believe are the risks of going into war against Iraq without the full approval of the UN?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Look, we've currently got the full approval of the United Nations. We've made it clear in the United Kingdom Government that we would much prefer a second resolution. But for reasons that are well rehearsed and understood, we've had to reserve the position if achieving a second resolution is not possible.

There are consequences for the whole of the international community if we cannot follow through the resolve that was shown on the 8th of November. That's what's at stake here. What's at stake is the authority of the whole of the UN. Because it was the UN which backed the military action to stop the gratuitous invasion of Kuwait by Iraq, the UN which put in the weapons inspectors, the UN which had very patiently to put up with four years of monumental lying and deceit from Saddam Hussein, saying they had nothing at all, we only discovered things when we had defectors, the UN which had to suffer the humiliation of having those inspectors effectively kicked out, and then four years of limbo. So it is the authority of the UN, of the international order, that is at stake, which is why we have to follow this through.

And to repeat a point made by Secretary Powell, we in the United Kingdom Government are in exactly the same position as the United States Government, and I think the whole rest of the world. We want to see this resolved peacefully, but we also know, to quote Kofi Annan, that sometimes -- and this, by God, is one occasion -- you have to back effective diplomacy with a credible threat of force.

QUESTION: You have spoken a lot about the endgame here at the UN and your optimism that it will succeed. But I'm just wondering how -- I'm having problems with the microphone. I can't help but wonder as you're standing here, both of you, underneath a portrait of someone who paid a great deal of attention to what some might call "Old Europe," whether you, as you say, who are going to weigh very carefully what the inspectors say on Monday, are willing to give the same opportunity and listen to the concerns so loudly expressed over the last couple of days by the French and the Germans.

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course, I am. We're all part of an alliance, the NATO alliance. We're all part of the Euroatlantic Partnership. You see two nations represented before you that are democracies with public opinions and with sovereign points of view. And I enter into all of these issues with a desire to hear from the others and recognizing that they have points of view and they have principles they believe in. And that's the greatness of our alliance, this great democratic alliance, where we listen to others and we find a way forward.

And I think we have demonstrated since the President's speech on the 12th of September that there is a way forward. It's a way forward if we remain united, if we don't take our eye off the ball, and if we recognize the problem is not what the inspectors can find or not find, the problem is not the United States, the problem is not the United Kingdom; the problem is Saddam Hussein and his willingness to disarm and the obligation he has to disarm, in the eyes of the world and in front of the international community.

And let us not have any illusions about why this is important. As you heard the Secretary say earlier: He has materials. He has weapons. He has the intention to create more weapons of mass destruction. This isn't just for bragging purposes. He has used this kind of weaponry in the past against his own people, against his neighbors. He has invaded his neighbors. And this is a serious challenge for the region, for the world. And that's what the United Nations is all about, and this is a challenge that must be met.

Last one.

QUESTION: Do you take it as a given that the British will be there if the President goes the military route, goes to war? Or as you watch obvious divides in Europe now and opposition to this war, do you countenance the idea seriously that the administration goes it alone?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I don't think we'll have to worry about going it alone. I think that the case is clear. I think that as we move forward, if it can't be solved peacefully, and if the UN should fail to act -- and I hope that is not the case -- then the United States reserves the right to do what it thinks is appropriate to defend its interests, the interests of its friends and to protect the world. And I am quite confident if it comes to that we'll be joined by many nations. Many nations have already expressed a willingness to serve in a coalition of the willing. And I would let the representative of Her Majesty's Government speak for the United Kingdom, but I am sure it will be a strong coalition. And we have had examples of this in the not too distant past where the international community wasn't able to act through the Security Council, but nevertheless action was taken by a coalition of the willing.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Look, no decisions have been made about military action, certainly in the United Kingdom and, I believe, in the United States. Yes, we're having to increase the credible threat of force to maintain its credibility, and that is why we in the United Kingdom are now committing up to 30,000 UK forces alongside the larger number of US forces in the region. And they are there to be used if necessary and if we make the decisions.

But I'll repeat again that we're doing this, first of all, to enforce the law of the United Nations in whatever circumstances it is done. That's why it's being done. Secondly, we would much prefer a second resolution, but that requires cooperation from our colleagues and partners inside the United Nations. But there is still a way in which this can be resolved peacefully. To pick up the point the Secretary said right at the opening, this is not about inspectors, it's not about the US or the UK or France or Germany; it's about Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime and the fact that it has been violating international law; holding stocks of poisons, of viruses, of deadly diseases; trying to rebuild its nuclear capacity to make nuclear weapons in complete defiance of international law. That's the issue and that's why this matter has to be resolved.

Thank you.

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