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Interview by Mr. Anwar Khalil of Radio Pakistan

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

MR. KHALIL: This is Anwar Khalil in Islamabad, Pakistan.

SECRETARY POWELL: How do you do, sir?

MR. KHALIL: Thanks, Secretary of State Colin Powell, for taking questions from Radio Pakistan on the Iraq crisis.

Well, sir, as perhaps you already know, there is a growing concern among Pakistani people that a military action against Iraq will adversely affect the whole region, including Pakistan, and that war should be avoided at all cost.

How do you propose to address this concern, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe that war should be avoided and we have been trying to avoid a war. For 12 years, Iraq has been in violation of its obligation -- a simple obligation -- get rid of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons and weapons programs for peace and security in the region. Iraq has said no, we will not respond, we will not obey.

And then we came together several months ago and passed Resolution 1441 in the United Nations, which said you must do this or face serious consequences. And so far, Iraq continues to not comply. And therefore, as much as we have wanted peace, and we still hope for peace, we simply cannot allow Iraq to continue to have biological weapons which kill people by the hundreds and thousands, or chemical weapons of the kind that they have used against their own people and have used against their neighbors.

The United States does not want to go to war. It is Iraq who is the problem. It is Saddam Hussein who is keeping these weapons. What purpose would these weapons serve in that part of the world? All we want to see is a leadership in Iraq, a regime in Iraq, that gets rid of these weapons and lives in peace with its neighbors.
And I hope that our Pakistani friends will understand that it is important for the world not to shrink from this responsibility. We know that there may be difficult days ahead if a conflict is necessary, but we also know that such a conflict would be conducted in a way to minimize any damage or loss of life as much as possible, considering it is a conflict; and in the aftermath of that conflict, we can build a better regime that is responsive to its people and I think will live in peace with its neighbors. And that is something we should all hope for. But we still hope to avoid war.

MR. KHALIL: Well, sir, here is my second question about what people in Pakistan generally believe, and they believe that the proposed war against Iraq will result in loss of innocent life, mostly Muslims, and also in the disintegration of Iraq. Would you agree, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we are committed to the integrity of Iraq. We do not want to see Iraq break up into pieces, and that has been our commitment to anybody who asks us about it, and to the United Nations and to the neighbors in the region of Iraq.

We don't want to see life lost anywhere -- Muslim, Christian, Jew or any other life lost. But we must remember that the weapons we are talking about have already taken Muslim lives. They have been used to take the lives of Iraqis, used against their own people. Saddam Hussein has used these weapons against their own people.

We must not see him as some kind of benevolent figure who is just sitting there being persecuted by the United States. He has persecuted his own people, deprived them of their human rights, fired these terrible weapons outside of his own country against Iran and against other nations in the region.

And so that is what we are trying to deal with, not go after Muslims. If you look at what the United States has done over the past 12 years, we have gone into Kuwait -- to conquer Kuwait? No. But to free Kuwait from a Muslim invasion that came from Iraq. We did that and we went home. We didn't go to Baghdad in 1991. We came home, hoping that Baghdad would comply with the law, the United Nations.

We went to Kosovo to help Kosovo Albanians, who were Muslims. And we went to Afghanistan, as you know, your neighbor -- not for the purpose of suppressing it and keeping it under our foot or to claim it. Instead, we defeated the Taliban and we have put in place a responsible government, elected by its own people through a Loya Jirga process, a full election next year, and we are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into Afghanistan -- not to rearm it, but to rebuild it.

And this is America's history with respect to its activities in the Muslim world. We come to help. We come to protect. We do not come to take life. We come to give a better life to the people of the nations that we have found it necessary to go and help.

MR. KHALIL: Well, sir, another question, a short one. Once the Iraq crisis is over, will the United States like to focus on resolving the festering crisis in South Asia through a just resolution of issues in the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have spent an enormous amount of time -- I personally have spent an enormous amount of time over the past year and a half working with the leaders of both India and Pakistan -- to defuse the crisis that brought us to the point of war last year. And I think we've played a helpful role in that regard and I also congratulate the leaders of the two countries for recognizing that it was more important to find a peaceful way forward and to begin a demobilization, which is well underway.

I do understand, however, that there is a need for dialogue to take place between India and Pakistan on all of the outstanding issues between those two nations, and especially the issue of Kashmir. And the United States will continue to do everything we can to get a dialogue started.

I think we have demonstrated clearly and rather forcefully in the last year and a half that matters in that part of the world, in South Asia, are of enormous interest to us and we try to work with all of our friends in the region, but especially with Pakistan and with India.

MR. KHALIL: Thank you very much, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're welcome.

Released on March 1, 2003

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