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Interview With Middle East Broadcasting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 19, 2003

(7:55 a.m. EST)

QUESTION: Recently, during a meeting on the Hill, you spoke -- that in case the war takes place and after the guns fall silent, you talked about a military administrator for Iraq. This did not sit well with some of the Iraq opposition. It did not sit well with some of your friends who said that, you know, Iraq is not Grenada, that this reminds them of the days of the British viceroys or what not. Could you please address these concerns because you said you don't want to stay in Iraq for long time?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. It is quite the contrary. Grenada -- when you have a military operation, there is going to be a military commander in charge. But how long did that military commander remain in Grenada? A very short period of time.

It is our desire if there is a conflict in Iraq, and we still hope one can be avoided, but if there is a conflict, then a military commander will initially be in charge; not only to run the military operation, but to make sure that right after the operation things are secure, that the people are protected, that humanitarian supplies come in. You need some central authority initially.

It is not our goal to destroy Iraq. It is our goal to remove a regime that we believe has wasted the people's treasure on weapons of mass destruction. So we are not going to destroy Iraq and we think once the regime has been eliminated there will be institutions that remain in place. As soon as we can, we would want to get the military commander to transfer real authority to a civilian leadership, perhaps initially of an international character as one develops a new Iraqi leadership consisting of people who are outside the country right now in the opposition, as well as those who are inside the country who are responsible and who are committed to the same values that those outside the country are.

I think to have a new leadership in Iraq, you have to have a combination of both. And I think all of my colleagues agree with that and I think the opposition would agree with that, so we are going into Iraq not to destroy a place, but to make it better. People worry about the negative consequences. There will be positive consequences if it is necessary to go into Iraq.

QUESTION: Sir, you spoke about regime change in Iraq will probably help the United States to reshape the region. Again, this probably is misunderstood or interpreted differently by people in the region who relied on commentators in this country who say that maybe the United States should establish some sort of a new imperium in the region, a new design for the region, address those concerns.

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States has the best record of any major power for not establishing imperiums, for not taking over countries. Kuwait -- did we take over Kuwait? No. Have we taken over Afghanistan? No. We gave it back to its Muslim leaders. Did we take over Kosovo when we bombed it and made it safer for the Muslim population? No. Did we take over Japan? Germany? Italy? No.

The United States' record is not one of imperialism. It is one of doing the job, bringing peace, restoring order and getting a responsible government in place. And when we said we were going to do that in Iraq if it becomes necessary to have a conflict, it is all for the purpose of making Iraq a good neighbor that is not developing weapons, that is not threatening its neighbors, that is committed to the welfare of its people. That will change the region. That's what we meant.

QUESTION: Sir, you have been engaging the EU, NATO, and the Turks and others, but we haven't seen you in the region recently.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I want to come back very soon. I have been quite busy at the UN and other places, so my travels have been difficult and there have been some other crises I've had to deal with -- India and Pakistan, which caused me to travel there a bit --


SECRETARY POWELL: -- but I'm anxious to return to the region.

QUESTION: Before diplomacy runs its course?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is all a function of schedule. I have to go to Asia this week, but I hope to return to the region at the earliest opportunity.

QUESTION: Sir, you spoke eloquently about the plight of the Palestinian people. But notwithstanding what you said, what the President said about his vision of the two states, the roadmap and the Quartet and all that, Palestinians continue to live in hellish conditions. Can you expect, realistically, given your preoccupation with Iraq and the American election season that you cannot be able to focus in a sustained fashion on this problem to resolve the Arab-Israeli peace process before two years, two years from now?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I certainly think we can focus on this problem. We are very concerned about the situation in the region. The violence continues as we see again today in Gaza. We are deeply concerned that terrorism hasn't ended. We are deeply concerned that the Palestinian people are unable to lead normal lives, and we have to move forward.

My Assistant Secretary for these matters, Bill Burns, is in London today meeting with other members of the Quartet in order to continue the work on the roadmap. And I know that President Bush remains committed to his 24 June vision of two states, one of them called Palestine, and that state Palestine living side-by-side in peace with Israel.

And Iraq, rather than detracting us from this might well be a basis to give us more ability to do something about this. So the President remains committed, and I expect that once the Israeli Government has been formed, the new government has been formed, we will be in a position to play a more active role now that the election cycle is behind us.

QUESTION: Along like the Madrid conference after the first --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, that is assuming there is going to be a conflict, but we are not waiting for a conflict to work. We are waiting right now for the Israeli Government to be formed and then you will see us take a more active role.

QUESTION: Okay. Sir, really appreciate it. I wish we can stay more with you, but thanks again.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you so much.

Released on February 21, 2003

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