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Interview by Anne Toulouse of Radio France International

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Via Telephone
Washington, DC
February 28, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon.

MS. TOULOUSE: The French Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin said today in an interview, and I quote him, "The U.S. strategy on Iraq is sliding from disarmament towards remodeling of the Middle East." How do you respond to that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I disagree categorically with my colleague Dominique de Villepin's comment. 1441, which we are trying to implement, had one goal, and that was to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. France voted for the resolution, as did the United States of America. And that is all we have been insisting on.

And if Iraq had disarmed itself, gotten rid of its weapons of mass destruction over the past 12 years, or over the last several months since 1441 was enacted, we would not be facing the crisis that we now have before us.

I must say, however, that if we are unable to get Iraq to comply and military action is necessary to remove this regime and to get rid of the weapons of mass destruction, it's quite clear to me that a new regime would be more responsive to the needs of its people, would live in peace with its neighbors, and perhaps that would assist the region in finding more peace, prosperity and stability for other nations in the region.

But the suggestion that we are doing this because we want to go to every country in the Middle East and rearrange all of its pieces is not correct, and I think Minister de Villepin is wrong.

MS. TOULOUSE: Now, about Africa, you have -- what have you said or will you say to countries such as Cameroon and Guinea to pressure them to vote for your resolution at the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: Each of those three nations who are on the Security Council will have to make their own judgment. They are free, independent nations capable of making their own judgment.

What we will be doing is presenting the argument to them, showing them that these weapons of mass destruction are dangerous, Iraq has ignored its obligations, and we believe it is time for the Security Council to take action. And we hope that we can make a persuasive case to vote for our resolution when our resolution finally comes to the floor to be voted on.

We have not asked for a vote yet because we are still looking for a peaceful solution. We are giving more time to the inspection process, as many people have requested. But ultimately, time has to end. You cannot keep doing this for an extended period of time, beyond 12 years since we started, or four months since Resolution 1441 was passed.

And we hope that if Iraq does not comply, the three African countries will join the other members of the Security Council, we hope, in voting for a resolution that says it is time for the will of the international community to be obeyed, one way or the other.

MS. TOULOUSE: Mr. Secretary, during the first Gulf War, several African nations were a part of the military operation, and now it seems you have some difficulties to get some on board, even if in a diplomatic offensive. How do you explain that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are still contacting nations around the world. And, you know, there is no war yet. We haven't started a war. We don't want a war. But I am confident that if it becomes necessary to go into action, the United States will be joined by many nations around the world. A number of them have already indicated their support, and I suspect that once action is deemed necessary, many other nations, to include nations of Africa, will support the United States.

We have heard expressions of support from a number of African nations, but I would leave it up to them individually to express publicly the level of support they will provide to coalition efforts.

Released on March 1, 2003

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