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Interview on Fox News Sunday with Tony Snow

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
March 16, 2003

MR. SNOW: Secretary Powell, if the President issues an ultimatum, what sort of ultimatum would it be?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, let's wait and see what the ultimatum would be if there's going to be an ultimatum. Right now we're focusing on these leaders getting together in Lajes just to talk about the diplomatic situation and to make a judgment as to whether the diplomatic window is closing. And that's a refocusing on, it's not a war council and ultimatums are not the issue today. The issue today is has the diplomatic track run its course?

MR. SNOW: One diplomatic effort apparently the United States has tried is to get word to Iraq that if Saddam Hussein and certain members of his inner circle were to leave the country, they could still avert war. Are we still trying to transmit such a message to Baghdad?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think that's a fair statement. If Saddam Hussein, his sons and a number of other top leaders were to leave and a more responsible leadership come in, a leadership that is determined to get rid of its weapons of mass destruction as they are supposed to and start to provide a better life for the Iraqi people, then a war certainly could be averted.

MR. SNOW: Are nations -- do we know of nations that are willing, right now, to take on Saddam Hussein and that inner circle?

SECRETARY POWELL: In terms of "take on," do you mean provide a haven for them?

MR. SNOW: In other words -- correct.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think there are nations that would be willing to do that as their contribution to avoiding a war.

MR. SNOW: And are we in ongoing discussions with those nations?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I wouldn't comment on what those diplomatic efforts might be like.

MR. SNOW: Now, there's also talk, obviously, of a second resolution. The British were going to table one this week. On the other hand, it looks like the votes are not there. With the promise of a French veto, is there any chance that resolution is going to see the light of day?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, there -- a resolution was tabled Friday before last by the United Kingdom with Spain and the United States co-sponsoring it. That's why these gentlemen are assembling in Lajes. They are the co-sponsors of this resolution.

Unfortunately, the French said they would veto such a resolution. Last week the British tried to modify it in order to deal with some of the concerns raised by France and other members of the Security Council, and France immediately said they would veto that. They said they would veto anything that might lead to the use of force. But without that possibility of the use of force, you won't get anything out of Saddam Hussein.

The steps we are seeing, which are simply not enough from Saddam Hussein are as a result, not of the inspectors, not of the French, but as a result of the possibility of force. He's trying to avoid that use of force. He is trying to divide the Council, and he's having some success because some Council members are saying, under no circumstances would we use force.

MR. SNOW: He has turned over a 25-page document to Hans Blix that purports to document the destruction of VX. Do we think that is a, we, the United States Government, do you think that is a legitimate document?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have no idea. We haven't seen it. I don't know what Dr. Blix has made of it. I know that this is a document he was supposed to have turned over in 1991. Eleven times over the last 12 years, he has provided declarations that were supposed to be full, complete and accurate.

We gave him another chance with 1441 to declare all that he knew about these weapons, to turn it all in; and he chose not to. And suddenly, here comes another 25-page document. It's part of a continuing effort on his part to break the Council up, to deceive us, and it is a game we have been watching for 12 years. It's a game that must come to an end.

MR. SNOW: It's the administration's position that Resolution 1441, which called for immediate disarmament, immediate actions and serious consequences is sufficient to go ahead and use force. In hindsight, has it been a mistake to return to the United Nations and to reopen a debate we now say was settled last year?

SECRETARY POWELL: First of all, we do believe that 1441 gives you more than enough authority, and I think the British believe that and so does Spain and a number of other countries.

MR. SNOW: Spain does.

SECRETARY POWELL: There was no question about it when it was passed that it was sufficient authority. Now we went back for a second resolution, which we didn't think we needed because a number of our friends and allies said, we really do need another second resolution for our political purposes or to reaffirm 1441.

We didn't think 1441 needed any reaffirmation, but nevertheless, we gave it a shot. And so far we've had difficulty with it because France and Russia, as well, have indicated that they would veto any second resolution.

MR. SNOW: Isn't it safe to say, as a result of this debate over the second resolution that our relations with France, Germany and Russia are, in fact, more strained than they were before?

SECRETARY POWELL: This clearly has put strains on our relations. We have had some difficulty with Germany on this issue since last summer when it became a campaign issue for Chancellor Schroeder's reelection. And it certainly has put a strain on our relationship with France because France has, frankly, not played a very helpful role in our judgment in keeping the focus on Saddam Hussein and not the focus on inspectors and new resolutions and anything but use of force.

I don't think that's been helpful in putting the pressure where it belongs on Saddam Hussein. With respect to Russia, we do have some strains as a result of this issue, but I think that with Russia we will be able to deal with this and it won't be any kind of even short-term damage in the relationship.

MR. SNOW: But there will be damage with the French relationship?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we're going to have to see how this plays out in the future. I think there have been some issues here that we're going to have to work out. I think, in the short-term, we have damaged our relationship with France. But we have to remember France is a long-time ally. We have been together for over 225 years and we're going to be together for a long time in the future.

MR. SNOW: Do you think the administration underestimated the depth of the relationship between Jacques Chirac and Saddam Hussein and the Governments of France and Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think we underestimated it. We knew that there was various commercial relationships and France had been a business -- had business relationships with Iraq over the years. I don't think we underestimated it. We knew from going back to 1988 when we -- 1998 when we saw how France dealt with the last resolution on UN inspections: how they watered it down for a period of seven months and even then, when a compromise was reached, France abstained on inspections; and also Russia and China abstained. So we were under no illusions about French views of this matter.

MR. SNOW: Do you believe the French are trying to protect Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't go that far, but I do know that as a result of the manner in which this has been handled in recent months, it hasn't been useful in applying maximum pressure to Saddam Hussein to do what the international community called on him to do: to comply and to cooperate fully with inspectors in compliance. That is what he has not done. And no amount of discussion about more time for inspectors, more inspectors, let's give it more time, let's come up with a new idea, let's modify the proposals on the table, all of these are interesting ideas but they don't deal with the basic problem and that is Saddam Hussein is not complying with 1441 and all the resolutions that go back for 12 years.

MR. SNOW: We've talked about the French. Let me read a few quotes from Dominique de Villepin right after the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 1441. First he said, "If Saddam Hussein doesn't comply, doesn't fulfill his obligations, the recourse to force will be triggered." A second quote, and then we'll talk about both of them: "We think," that is the French, "that he might use the chemical-biological weapons, and I want to repeat here that we also suspect there's an embryonic nuclear element. We can't run that risk."

That was Dominique de Villepin just back in November -- just a few months ago. Now all of sudden France is saying it's going to veto everything. Why do you think that's happened?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not entirely sure because those are excellent quotes that you pulled up, Tony. It shows that there was no doubt, no question, about what 1441 was all about: compliance or the use of force if necessary. That's what the serious consequences meant in 1441. And also, you see an acknowledgment by the French Foreign Minister that this capability existed within Iraq for weapons of mass destruction.

1441 was premised on the reality that such weapons of mass destruction programs existed. It wasn't a figment of anyone's imagination, and all 15 members agreed. Now, in the months after that, France decided for its own purposes to just keep trying to avoid the inevitable conclusion that Saddam Hussein was not complying: keep inspections going, give them more time, let's have 120 days, let's do this, let's do that. And they did not want to face up to the reality that it is now time to consider whether or not the diplomatic track has run its course and it's time to use military force.

MR. SNOW: If the French came along and said, we would like to have a longer window, whether it would two weeks or 30 days, and then at that point force would be triggered, would the United States say okay?

SECRETARY POWELL: Two weeks or 30 days for what? All we need is two hours to decide whether or not Saddam Hussein has made the decision that he's been called on to make for the last 12 years, and that is a good way for him to manifest that he really wants to solve this problem is for him and his sons to pick up and leave town.

MR. SNOW: Dominique de Villepin, again, the French Foreign Minister, has called for a ministerial meeting: foreign ministers, secretaries of state, to gather again at the UN Security Council on Tuesday. Do you intend to attend?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, right now, a meeting has not been scheduled by the President of the Council, which is the Guinean Permanent Representative, so we'll wait and see what actually is called for by the Council and I will make a judgment then. Right now, I don't know that there's any purpose to be served by yet another meeting when the disagreement is so fundamental: more inspections, more time for inspections, or full compliance right away, immediately, unconditionally, as called for in 1441 on the part of Saddam Hussein.

MR. SNOW: Will the President make a call this week?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President will consult with Mr. Aznar and Mr. Blair in the next few hours and those three gentlemen will issue statements as to what they discussed and then we'll see what the President decides to do after that, but I think the moment of truth is arriving with respect to diplomacy and what comes next.

MR. SNOW: Everybody seems to believe war is imminent. The Germans are now pulling all of their ambassadorial employees out of Baghdad, the insurance company that insures UN helicopters, it's pulled the insurance, they are taking the helicopters out, a number of other legations are getting out. Are they wrong to do so?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think these are expected and prudent actions. We will also be trimming down our presence in the region. We're at a moment of, where a moment of decision is coming up and the next step in this process is for the three leaders, the four leaders with the Portuguese serving as host for this meeting with the three co-sponsors taking a look at where we are diplomatically this afternoon and making a judgment about the way forward.

MR. SNOW: Will you be surprised if there's no war this time next week?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would not wish to speculate on my level of surprise or lack of surprise on events that are in the future.

MR. SNOW: All right. We have talked now about our allies. There's been this conception that Tony Blair's under political stress. Do you think that's true?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. He is. I mean there's no question about it. I mean Tony Blair has taken a strong leadership position. He would not walk away from this challenge, and it has cost him politically. But I hope that he will be able to persuade his cabinet, the Parliament, all the other constituencies that he has to deal with in the United Kingdom that it was the right thing to do, it was absolutely the noble thing to do and he stood tall -- not just standing tall with George Bush, but standing tall for freedom, standing tall for the destruction of these kinds of weapons of mass destruction, standing tall for the United Nations Security Council to impose its will correctly on a dictatorial, evil regime like Saddam Hussein's.

MR. SNOW: Which raises a critical question. The President had said if the UN Security Council and the UN failed to act on their own resolutions that they will become irrelevant.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think on this issue, if the UN fails to act it will seriously the damage the Security Council and its ability to impose its will. The UN will still be with us for the next 50 years as it was for the last 50 years. But for these kinds of issues, the UN has to demonstrate its relevancy to deal with this type of problems.

MR. SNOW: And if it does not do so, will the United States and others be ready to come up with some sort of alternative?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what an alternative is. I mean we have demonstrated over the years that there are different alternatives for different situations. For example, just a few years ago when the previous administration was facing the crisis in Kosovo, the UN didn't act at that point. The administration knew that Russia would veto a resolution put before the Security Council so it didn't call for a vote. And then a coalition of the willing went and dealt with Kosovo.

So very often, the UN is not the organization of choice when it comes to the use of military force and then you put together a coalition of the willing. And this has been done a number of times, most recently in Kosovo that comes to mind.

MR. SNOW: We had hoped that Turkey would be part of the coalition of the willing. All deals with Turkey off the table now?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Turkey is a good friend. And let's remember that Mr. Erdogan, who is now the Prime Minister, when he was not yet the Prime Minister at the beginning of this month, he and the prime minister at that time, Mr. Gul, were willing to take this issue to their parliament. And for a moment there, we thought that parliament had passed it, but as a result of second counts and parliamentary maneuvers, it was not passed. So he was willing to stand with us and take the package to his parliament.

Now he is the prime minister and we're in close touch with him. And I have met with him, I have met with the former prime minister, I've met with the minister of foreign affairs, and they are positioning themselves to take the package back to their parliament. Whether it will be in a timely manner or not remains to be seen.

MR. SNOW: There's a possibility, then, that U.S. troops still might be deployed through Turkey?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't eliminate any of the options that are on the table right now. A lot depends on what Mr. Erdogan feels he can get through his parliament, and he has to make that political judgment. And we're -- you know -- Turkey is a great friend. They'll be a friend in the future, and we are in the closest touch with them right now.

MR. SNOW: Will the administration, quickly switching topics, final question, invite Abu Mazen to Washington to consult with the President should he become prime minister of the Palestinian Authority?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're hoping that he will be confirmed next week as prime minister of the Palestinian Authority and we hope that he will be invested with power, real power. And that is why the President made his statement Friday with respect to the roadmap.

When he is confirmed, we will present that roadmap to him. And I'm sure that at some point in the future, I don't know when we would schedule such a visit, but when it's time we could do so, he would be welcomed in Washington.

MR. SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us again.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Tony.

Released on March 16, 2003

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