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Interview on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 9, 2003

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Welcome back, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, George. Good morning.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's start with that French-German plan. They say they're going to come to the UN later this week and put forward a plan that involves doubling or tripling the number of inspectors, more reconnaissance flights, more bases for the inspectors, and, perhaps most important, they want this all enforced by a UN peacekeeping force.

What do you think of that plan?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, frankly, I have not seen this plan. It has been speculated about in the press for the last 24 hours, but I do not know what the plan actually is. But I suspect it is a variation of what the French Foreign Minister discussed at the UN on Wednesday, and that is increasing the number of inspectors and giving them more robust instructions.

But I do not know what that accomplishes. The issue is not more inspectors or more robust inspections; the issue is will Iraq comply, will it give up its weapons of mass destruction. The resolution that we are trying to execute, 1441, accepted as a fact that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction--the French knew that, all the other members of the Security Council knew it--said Iraq was in material breach and said it had to come into compliance or else serious consequences would flow.

So the issue is not more inspectors. If Iraq was complying, giving up these weapons of mass destruction, telling us what happened to the mustard gas, what happened to the anthrax, what happened to the botulinum toxin, where did all the missiles go, where did all this material go, where are the documents, bring forward not just one or two people to be interviewed, bring forward everybody to be interviewed. If they were doing what they were supposed to be doing, the inspectors that are there would be more than enough. You could do it with half as many inspectors.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what seems to be new about this plan, if the reports are correct, is that the inspectors, they wouldn't only be increased but they would be backed up by an enforcement mechanism of these [inaudible].

SECRETARY POWELL: George, I do not know what that means. I am not sure if that is their plan. What are these blue-helmeted UN forces going to do? Shoot their way into Iraqi compounds? The issue is the resolution specifically called upon Iraq to cooperate fully, tell us what happened to all of this material, tell us what you are doing now, come clean, and not for inspectors to play detectives or Inspector Clouseau running all over Iraq looking for this material. Iraq is supposed to be bringing the material forward. And that is what Iraq is not doing.

Now, the two chief inspectors are having discussions there this weekend and they will report to the Council this Friday, and we will see what they report. But we cannot let this game just keep continuing week after week after week, as we find new and different reasons and new and different approaches to avoid the situation which is clearly in front of us, and that is we are reaching a point where the Council must come together, the Security Council must come together, decide whether Iraq is still not in compliance, and should face the serious consequences called for in 1441. And everyone who voted for 1441, to include the French, understood that serious consequences meant the use of force.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But let me just button this up. So if it is as reported, the United States will not support the French-German plan?

SECRETARY POWELL: I do not know what the French-German plan is. There is no French-German plan. I have not seen it. All we are responding to this morning is a report in a German magazine, Der Spiegel, that there is such a plan, and then some report from the German Defense Minister that they are working with the French and perhaps the Russians to come up with a plan that will be presented next week. So let us see what this so-called "plan" is.

But if it is a plan that ignores continued Iraqi noncompliance and says the solution is more inspectors, that doesn't solve the problem. It is attacking the problem in the wrong way. It is not the need for more inspectors; it is the need for Iraqi compliance, Iraqi turning in their weapons of mass destruction, Iraqi sending everybody to be interviewed who needs to be interviewed, and the Iraqis telling us what happened to this material, this deadly material that could kill millions and millions of people. We need a change in Baghdad, not a change in the inspection teams.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You mentioned Hans Blix's mission this weekend. If he comes forward next Friday, big moment at the UN Security Council, and says we've made some progress with the Iraqis this week and we need more time, what will the U.S. response be?

SECRETARY POWELL: I do not want to speculate on what--on this hypothetical situation. Let us wait and see what Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei say on Friday. But I do not think we can keep stringing this out and giving them more and more time. We know why the Iraqis want more and more time. They're trying to stretch this out in the hope that it will just sort of dissipate and fall apart and everybody will go walking away and we will be faced with the same situation we were faced with last year next year, and that is that we have this regime, this dictatorial regime that has not given up its commitment to developing weapons of mass destruction to threaten its neighbors and to threaten the world.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the U.S. prepared to table a second resolution of its own that says Iraq is in material breach and sets a deadline for compliance?

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States is not the only one who can table such a resolution, and we are talking to our friends and allies in the Council about what the nature of such a resolution might be. And so those conversations have begun with respect to a second resolution in light of continued Iraqi noncompliance, and the President said he would welcome such a resolution and he would support it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let's go back to your presentation at the United Nations this week. At one point, and I want to show our viewers what you showed: pictures of a camp in Northern Iraq, a terrorist training camp, you said. We had our own reporters go there over the week and we're going to also show now that videotape and I'd like to get your response. What they seemed to find as they went through the camp was a very rudimentary camp, not much electricity from a single generator, no running water. It didn't appear to be--and, of course, these are not trained inspectors, but it did not appear to be to them any kind of a terrorist training camp where poison gas was used.

How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: If it really was supposed to be a terrorist training camp, the reporters would not be allowed in. You can be sure that anything that the owners of that camp did not want reporters to see, reporters did not see.

Another version of reporters reporting that went into that camp said we did not see anything but, you know, suddenly we were taken to a bunker which had video cameras and which had power and which was sophisticated, had computers, state-of-the-art. And so do not underestimate what can be hidden.

We are not just relying on one overhead picture to make the claim that this is a place where poisons were being developed. We have a number of sources. This is a multi-sourced piece of evidence that we put down, and we can trace things that have come out of that facility and have moved through Europe and Central Asia back into Western Europe to support terrorists in the production of poisons--poisons that have been found in different capitals throughout Europe. So this is not a [inaudible].

And we fully anticipated that after my presentation, every picture I threw up and everything I showed, within a day or two the Iraqis would be taking people to go look at what they wanted them to see at these facilities.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, you were asked about this at your hearings at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this week by Senator Biden, who will also be on the program, and he raised the question, you know, why didn't you just take the terrorist camp out if you knew that they had activity there. I know you didn't want to discuss it in public, but I bring it up for two reasons: because Senator Dianne Feinstein of California says they've actually asked about it in private and haven't been given any satisfactory answers; and secondly, a senior official, intelligence official, gave the L.A. Times this explanation for why you didn't destroy it--he said this is it, this is their compelling evidence for the use of force; if you take it out, you can't use it as a justification for war.

Is that the reason it wasn't destroyed?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course not. I do not know who this senior intelligence officer is, and he seems not to be talking intelligence but policy. We examine all of these things on a regular, continuing basis, and when you consider military options you consider them in the framework of your entire strategy. And we are familiar with this facility, we have been able to track things coming out of it, and we have a variety of options that have been under consideration with respect to that facility.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Why didn't you destroy it?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not going to discuss why we did or did not do a particular military action in public.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The Attorney General announced on Friday that the United States was now on the highest level of alert from a terrorist strike. Should the American people expect, as we get closer to a possible military action with Iraq, that those threats will increase?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think one has to prudently expect that if conflict becomes closer, more proximate, we would have to be even more vigilant with respect to the security of our nation and the security of facilities within our nation, and it would require more prudent action on the part of all American citizens. But I do not think we should start panicking about it. And even in this movement to a higher alert status, I think the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security have made it clear: "go about your business but we will be more vigilant, we'll be watching things more closely, but continue to go about your business, go about your entertainment activities, visit your religion sites every weekend, go to church, go to synagogue, go to temple, let us not destroy the American way of life, let us just be vigilant and careful."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The FBI alert mentioned the possibility of an attack using radiological devices. Does that mean that the United States Government now believes that al-Qaida has the capability to let off a dirty bomb?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we have to at least be conscious of that possibility. By radiological bomb, we do not mean a nuclear weapon in that regard; we just mean spreading contamination, radiological contamination. That is not a difficult thing to do if one can get the source of the contamination, the radiological material.

And I think it is prudent to assume that that is a possibility. How likely it is I cannot say, but I think it is wise for us to at least let the American people know of this possibility.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You know, let me switch to North Korea now. You came under a fair amount of pressure at the Foreign Relations Committee from senators saying you should engage in direct talks with the North Koreans. You're the Secretary of State. Why not just get on a plane, fly to a neutral third country, fly to Pyongyang, and confront the North Koreans directly with your case?



SECRETARY POWELL: We did. I confronted them in Brunei at the end of July, and I said to the North Korean Foreign Minister that we want to have a better relationship and we have some ideas as to how we can help you with your economy and the fact that your people are starving, but we have to deal with this issue of proliferation of missiles and other dangerous technologies that you are responsible for, and I want to send in Assistant Secretary Kelly to talk about these matters.

And in October, Assistant Secretary of State Kelly went in and went to Pyongyang, just as you suggested, sat down and talked with them, and said: "look, we want to have a better relationship but we cannot have a better relationship when we know you are doing these kinds of things--and by the way, we also know that in direct violation of every agreement you have made with North Korea, with South Korea, with the IAEA, the Agreed Framework you have with us, you are developing a new capacity to develop nuclear weapons using enriched uranium."

We thought they would deny it. They acknowledged it. They were shocked we knew. They acknowledged it. And they have said yes, we did it. And therefore, they put themselves in violation of at least four separate agreements.

Now, before we run back in and start talking to them directly, we believe this is a regional problem and we believe other nations should play a role in the solution. And that is why we want to talk to them in a multilateral setting. Why should we not include South Korea and Japan and China and Russia? China has more than a passing interest, for example. They have said it is their national policy that they want a denuclearized Korean Peninsula. And why should we not ask the Chinese to work with us on that prospect?

Everybody says: "well, all the North Koreans want is an agreement with you--just say you are not going to attack or invade them." President Clinton gave them many such agreements. South Korea gave them such an agreement. They had a number of agreements throughout the 1990s that said just that. And what did North Korea do with those agreements? They let us all watch Yongbyon to think that we had stopped nuclear activities there while they went about developing nuclear capacity at another place using enriched uranium techniques.

And so we have to make sure we just do not go down that path again because we are worried about what they are doing. We are worried. We are deeply concerned. We are working with our friends and allies and we are using the channels we have with North Korea. And in due course, I believe there will be conversations, but I think they should be in a multilateral setting.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: I just have one final question, sir. I mean, as we get closer to possible action with Iraq, the world is looking like a pretty scary place. Saddam Hussein is threatening to use biological-chemical weapons against our troops. We saw that terror alert. North Korea is accelerating its nuclear program and there are even reports that the Taliban is regrouping in Afghanistan.

How would you respond to an American citizen who says, listen, I know Saddam is a bad guy, but maybe it's more dangerous to take him out than to let him stay.

SECRETARY POWELL: No--I would say to an American citizen that is not the right answer. We cannot ignore danger. We cannot turn away from this challenge. This challenge has been with us now for 12 long years and it is time to resolve this challenge once and for all. It is time to do something about this regime that has been developing weapons of mass destruction, that has been thumbing its nose at now 17 different UN resolutions.

And if the UN is to remain relevant, if we are going to have any standing in the world as a leader of the world that wants to be free, this is the time for the United States, working with the United Nations or working with willing members of a coalition, to deal with this problem once and for all.

We have been trying for 12 years to deal with it peacefully. This very day, we are trying to deal with it peacefully. The President is hopeful for a peaceful solution, even at this late date. But it is a problem that must be dealt with. And if the UN finds itself not capable of dealing with it, then the President, with a lot of nations joining in, we will deal with it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.


Released on February 9, 2003

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