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Interview On BBC's NewsNight

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 20, 2003

MS. WALK: Colin Powell, how close are you to agreeing a text for a second resolution with the British?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we're very close. I've been in close consultation with Foreign Secretary Straw and members of my team have been in close touch with members of his team, so I would expect in the very near future we'll be putting down a resolution, more likely next week.

MS. WALK: Have you agreed that it will contain explicit authorization for military action?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm not sure that it will. I think it will be a resolution that summarizes the situation as it exists, shows that Iraq is not in compliance, however much inspectors may be moving around the country, and that's good; but if there is no compliance, if there is no cooperation of the kind we expected, then that's not good, and I think the resolution will point out that lack of cooperation and point to the fact that the United Nations Security Council is supposed to act in the presence of this lack of cooperation.

A lot of arguments about more inspectors, keep the inspections going, but we must not lose sight of the basic issue. The basic issue is Iraqi compliance, and that's not what we're getting.

QUESTION: But without the actual term "military action" or authorization of military action, isn't it going to be less likely that you'll be able to launch military action quickly?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, right now, an argument can be made, and it's an argument we would make, that 1441, Resolution 1441, provides more than enough authority. This next resolution need not say "military action" to provide the authority for the use of force if that's what is decided is appropriate.

And so we're looking at the language to come up with language that the Security Council will receive in a positive way and recognize that it is time for them to meet their responsibilities to the international community.

But this is not a rush to war, as some say. This issue has been lingering for 12 years and it has been months since the inspectors got started and months since 1441 was passed, and Iraq is still not in compliance. And so we'll see what the language of the resolution looks like and the whole world will see it in the not too distant future.

MS. WALK: Will it contain a deadline or a series of deadlines for Saddam?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think the resolution will, but clearly time is running out. We can't just allow this matter to drag along and to allow those who are not prepared to use military force, as was the intent of 1441 in the presence of Iraqi noncooperation, we can't allow it to just be drug out with requests for more inspectors, for more process, for more actions on the part of the Iraqis which are not intended to comply but intended to deceive.

For example, much was made last week of Saddam Hussein's issuing a decree telling everybody to turn in or have nothing to do with weapons of mass destruction. Now that we've read the decree, we see that it applies to private citizens, and not to the government. So it's another act of disingenuousness on the part of Saddam Hussein. More people are going to be made available for interview, but we see in our press this morning that more people have not been made available for interview. No more documents have been forthcoming.

Last week at the Security Council, I clearly pointed out that the declaration that Iraq provided in December was flawed, it was incomplete. And the response of the Iraqi Permanent Representative at the Security Council last week was, well, read it again, we're not giving you anything more. We can't accept answers like that. This is a serious matter. Weapons of mass destruction are in Iraq, 1441 says so, and Iraq must come into compliance.

MS. WALK: But what is your response to President Chirac, who said that the inspectors are doing their work, there is no need for a second resolution now, and France would have no choice but to oppose?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I certainly appreciate President Chirac's point of view. I appreciate the points of view expressed by all the members of the Security Council and we'll listen to them carefully. But we believe that the inspectors are not yet able to do their work in the presence of Iraqi noncompliance, and the inspectors essentially have said that.

MS. WALK: But the evidence you've brought so far has failed to convince a majority of people in Britain that war is required. Opinion polls and public demonstration show that, indeed, church leaders this very day have said that Tony Blair has not made the moral argument for war.

How much does it matter to you, and do you understand the political risk that he is running?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course I do. And of course we watch the demonstrations that have taken place in the United Kingdom and elsewhere around Europe, and we take them very much into account. But the simple facts, the simple reality, is that the case is clear: Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. The previous inspection regime said so as a result of their work from 1991 to 1998, when they were forced out of the country. And 1441 begins with the opening premise that Iraq remains in material breach of its obligations. Where is the anthrax? Where is the botulinum toxin? These are not just simple medications or chemicals that we can ignore knowing what happened to these items. These are deadly organisms and deadly chemicals. Where are the missiles that we know exist? The mobile biological warfare labs?

It's easy to say we haven't seen enough evidence, therefore we must not act. But it seems to me the evidence is clear, the evidence has been there for the past 11 to 12 years, and the United Nations must not step back from its responsibilities, and I am pleased that there are leaders such as Prime Minister Blair that even in the presence of dissension within the United Kingdom he recognizes the responsibility that we have as an international community not to step back from this challenge, not to avoid the difficult days and difficult steps that may be ahead.

MS. WALK: Colin Powell, thank you very much, indeed.


Released on February 20, 2003

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