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Interview by Mr. Joseph Decapua of VOA African Service

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

MR. DECAPUA: Secretary Powell.

SECRETARY POWELL: Hello, how are you?

MR. DECAPUA: I'm fine, sir. How are you today? Recently, at the Franco-African summit in Paris, all 52 African countries attending sided with France to give more time to the weapons inspectors in Iraq. In your view, why should those African countries support the U.S. position and, in particular, Angola, Cameroon and Guinea?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we have given Iraq a great deal of time to disarm. We have given them since 1991. And the simple fact of the matter is they have not disarmed. Sixteen UN resolutions have been passed over that 12-year period and they have still not responded to them and disarmed. And we gave them one last chance with Resolution 1441 and so far they still have not disarmed. They are not complying with the will of the international community.

And if the international community and its word is to have meaning, particularly in a subject as serious as this, weapons of mass destruction, then sooner or later action must be taken. We agree with France, who voted for 1441 along with us, that the issue is disarmament, but we don't believe that we can just continue to let the matter run, saying that let's send in more inspectors, let's have a longer inspection period, when the issue is not how many inspectors or how long the inspection period, the issue is Iraqi compliance.

So the United States believes strongly that the time is coming to simply demand that Iraq comply now or face consequences, and those consequences would include the possibility of military action to disarm Iraq and, frankly, put in place a regime that will be more responsible to the people of the country, that will stop the human rights abuses that take place in Iraq, will eliminate the weapons of mass destruction, and will make the region

more peaceful, in the absence of this kind of regime that ignores its international obligations.

MR. DECAPUA: Secretary Powell, has the United States offered any additional aid to Angola, Cameroon and Guinea for their support?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have not. We are in close touch with the leaders in those three countries, and, of course, we have a number of bilateral programs and efforts underway with each and every one of them. But we have not conditioned any aid that we might be giving them on how they might vote.

We, obviously, hope that they will find, when it comes time to vote, that our position is persuasive, but these are free, independent nations that are capable of making their own judgment after examining all the facts.

Do we present strong arguments to them? Yes. But we are relying on their good judgment to determine how they will vote when the time comes to vote.

MR. DECAPUA: Many African analysts we have spoken to have criticized U.S. policy on Iraq, saying the United States should first do a better job of solving the Palestinian problem in the Middle East, that the U.S. has a double standard in the region. How would you respond?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I would disagree. We are working on the Palestinian problem. The President spoke about this in his speech two nights ago when he once again committed himself to the roadmap that the Quartet has developed, providing for two states living side by side in peace, Israel and Palestine. And he remains committed to that vision, but more than that, we're working toward that vision.

We hope that the roadmap will be completed soon and released in the not too distant future. And the President also knows that settlement activity in the occupied territories has to come to a halt in order to see progress.

So we are as committed to a Middle East peace process as we are to disarming Iraq, but they are two different issues and we have to work on both of those issues.

MR. DECAPUA: Africa, as you know, has a very large number of Muslims. What further assurances can the United States give that this is in no way a war against Islam?

SECRETARY POWELL: Look what we have done for Islam over the last dozen years. When Iraq invaded Kuwait, one Muslim country invading another, we came to the defense of Kuwait. We ejected the Iraqi army from Kuwait. We didn't march on Baghdad. We said, "Now would you please disarm yourself of weapons of mass destruction?" We said that to Iraq. They didn't comply. And we gave Kuwait back to the Kuwaitis.

When Kosovo, the Muslims of Kosovo, were in danger, we helped come to -- we came to their rescue, with other nations.

And when the Taliban had turned Afghanistan into a hotbed of terrorist activity by hosting al-Qaida, we engaged, as a result of what they did to us on 9/11, and we removed the Taliban from power.

But what have we done since? We've been building roads, building hospitals, building schools, helping the Afghan people put in place their own government. The United States does not go to conquer or to claim sovereignty or to take anyone's oil. We go to help create conditions for peace and stability within the region, and not to take over anyone's country.

It is not anti-Muslim. We have Muslims in America. We have mosques and temples and synagogues and churches all over -- all over in our country. We live in harmony with other religions and races, all living together here in the United States. This is not anti-Muslim. We did not go looking for trouble. Trouble came and found us when we were attacked on 9/11. It is not anti-Muslim. It is anti-terrorism and anti-those regimes that develop weapons of mass destruction that they have used against their own people, fellow Muslims, and have used against their neighbors. That's what we're after.

We respect the Muslim faith and would do nothing to dishonor Islam in any way.

# # #

Released on March 1, 2003

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