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Interview on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos

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

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And now the Secretary of State Colin Powell, welcome back.

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, George.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: If this summit today is really the last chance for diplomacy, why aren't you there?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm staying here in Washington in order to stay in touch with my colleagues in London and in Spain, in Madrid. There's a lot going on in the UN. There are proposals being made, there are statements being made. We worked all day yesterday on the statements that will be examined at the summit in the Azores and so it's a distribution of labor, and that's fine.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So are you actually formulating a proposal, a new proposal to bridge the gap in the Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: What's going to happen in the Azores today is the three leaders will get together and review the diplomatic situation and while they are doing that, I and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw of the United Kingdom and Ana Palacio, who was on your show earlier in Madrid, we are staying in constant touch so that we can provide any advice on late-breaking developments at the UN. And as you know, there are a number of initiatives that other nations are taking: the French and the Germans and the Russians put forward a paper yesterday. There are things that are going to be happening in the UN this week; and it is for that reason we thought it would be best for the three of us to stay in touch.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: One of the new developments --

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not expecting, really, a new proposal. There is a good, solid proposal on the table now. It is a resolution that these three nations, the United States, the United Kingdom and Spain tabled Friday before last. But France has said it will veto it and every adjustment we have tried to make to that resolution during the course of last week, France said it would veto.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, there may be a change, though, in the French position. French President Jacques Chirac gave an interview today in which he said he would be willing to consider a 30-day timeline for inspections. That's a big concession coming back off 120 days.

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that it's that big a concession. I don't know exactly what President Chirac is proposing. All I know is that when the United Kingdom came forward with an adjustment to the resolution that was on the table last week, the instant response from the French Government was, "We'll veto it. We'll veto anything that leads to the serious consequences intended by resolution 1441 for Iraqi noncompliance.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But is 30-day, is a 30-day timeline acceptable to the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have had timelines, we have had deadlines, and we have had benchmarks. The problem is Iraq is not complying. Iraq is playing the United Nations and playing some of our friends in the permanent membership of the Security Council like a fiddle.

They dribble out at a little of this and then over the weekend we hear they are going to let some more people come forward to be interviewed, they are going to bring forward some more documents. These are documents that were supposed to have been brought forward in 1991. These are documents Iraq said they don't have any longer, but suddenly they discover them. It's a game, George. It's a game and the problem is strictly on the shoulders of Saddam Hussein who is not complying with the simple instructions of 1441 and all the previous resolutions. And we cannot get ourselves confused about what the problem is. The problem is Iraqi noncompliance and non-cooperation with the inspectors and with the will of the United Nations.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And time has run out for Saddam Hussein?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think time is clearly running out. I think a moment of truth is arriving and what's happening in the Azores today -- the three co-sponsors of the resolution that is before the Council now are meeting to assess the diplomatic prospects for that resolution and to come to some conclusions as to the way forward in the week ahead.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So have you given up hope on getting a UN resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, right now, that's what the leaders will be talking about. Is it time to bring the curtain down on this or is there some hope? They are not going there for a war council. They are going there to examine the diplomatic situation to see if there is any hope for a peaceful solution.

But I will tell you what, Saddam Hussein has done nothing to assist in finding that peaceful solution, and some members of the Council, frankly, have not been that helpful in applying maximum pressure to Saddam Hussein for him to do so.

Let's keep in mind, the reason that we are seeing even these tentative process moves on the part of Saddam Hussein is not because of resolutions, it's not because of diplomacy, it's because of the presence of a strong US-United Kingdom-and other nations participating military force in the region that is applying that kind of pressure, and if Saddam Hussein ultimately decides not to comply, and it doesn't look like he will, then he will face the serious consequences 1441 called for.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But as you know, as you know, other members of the Security Council have said a little bit more time would help them. Yesterday I spoke with the Pakistani Ambassador to the United Nations and here's what he had to say about what he'd like to see from the Azores:

(Videotape was played.)

PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UN: "What we would like to hear is that the U.S. and the sponsors are prepared to evolve a compromise, that perhaps they are prepared to wait and give a chance for peaceful disarmament of Iraq and that we can work together in the Council and bridge the gaps and reach, reach a consensus for further action."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And that means you'll need more time.

PAKISTANI AMBASSADOR TO UN: "We definitely would need more time if a consensus is to be reached."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So what's wrong with giving a little more time to get the support of a country like Pakistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: Because we have been waiting for 12 years. We gave a little more time when the President gave his speech. We gave a little more time when 1441 was passed. It is now four months since 1441 and we have seen nothing with respect to Iraqi performance and behavior that suggests that Saddam Hussein has made a decision to comply with the resolution and to cooperate.

Let there be no doubt, if it wasn't the threat of military force, if those military forces were not assembled in the Gulf right now, you would be seeing no cooperation from Iraq. You'd be seeing the same kind of games they have played for the last 12 years. So how much more time is necessary in order to make a judgment that Iraq is not complying and does not intend to cooperate?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, but that's the question that your colleagues on the Security Council are asking as well. And if they need a month, what's the harm? It's -- the Vice Chairman --

SECRETARY POWELL: Do you really think that the French who have made it clear from the very beginning, have made it clear for years -- since the last resolution in 1998, which they worked hard on and then finally abstained. They didn't even support the resolution that they worked on for seven months. Do you really think that 30 more days would persuade the French that if Iraq did not comply at that point they would then be willing to support the use of military force?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well, that's --

SECRETARY POWELL: No. The French have made it clear and they made it clear again this week. They see no logic that would lead to the use of military force.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well then let me ask you about that --

SECRETARY POWELL: But in the absence of the use of military force, it's not clear that you will get Iraq to understand the seriousness of the situation that it has put itself in.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Well then, let me ask you about that because you worked very hard with the French. You worked very hard with Dominique de Villepin in negotiating 1441.


MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Looking back now, do you feel like they sandbagged you?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, because 1441 was a clear statement, and we made it clear to the French at that time, 1441 was a powerful resolution that put the burden squarely on Iraq and it said that if there is not compliance this time there would be serious consequences. There was no confusion in my mind or in Foreign Minister de Villepin's mind or anyone else's mind that serious consequences meant the use of force.

Now, we have, we have --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But now you're saying they are never going to accept the use of force.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they -- that's what they are saying. It's not what I'm saying.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: You're saying that's your belief about France.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, that's what they are saying. It's not my belief about France. It's what the French keep saying. It's what they keep saying, they do not see the logic to the use of force and they keep saying, well, that's only in this context, but they keep repeating it. But the fact of the matter is, 1441 by a vote of 15 - 0 provided the international basis for any action that might be taken in the future; and that especially includes military action if it's necessary in the presence of continued Iraqi noncompliance. And we have now met over the last several weeks in New York some four times to evaluate Iraqi compliance or noncompliance.

Some people thing they are complying merely because they give you something the day before one of these meetings takes place. But the only reason they are complying is to try to divide the Council. And the only reason they are doing anything at all is because of the pressure that's being put on them militarily. They are trying to get rid of that pressure. They are trying to escape, once again, from their obligations not only under 1441, but for 12 years of resolutions. This goes back to 1991. They have given 11 declarations over that period of time that they said were full, complete and accurate. And we know they were not full, complete and accurate.

For years they said, we have given you a full, complete, accurate declaration that we have no biological weapons. Voila. In 1995 it became clear they did have biological weapons. They had to admit it.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So time is running out.

SECRETARY POWELL: Time is running out.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: The French proposal is not acceptable at this point?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't even know what the French proposal is.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Thirty more days.

SECRETARY POWELL: That's a statement that President Chirac apparently gave to a newscaster. I have not seen that. There is a letter that is in from the French and the Germans and the Russians that there should be some sort of meeting this week and I will just examine that letter -- that's one reason I stayed behind -- to deal with these kinds of issues as they are going to come up in the course of today --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So given all that, do you now agree with British Foreign Minister Jack Straw that war is much more probable?

SECRETARY POWELL: I would say that the President's and prime ministers' meeting this afternoon in the Azores will have to look very carefully at the situation we find ourselves in and make a judgment as to whether or not there is a diplomatic way ahead. And if there's not a diplomatic way ahead, then what should come next? But I will leave that to those leaders in the Azores to make a judgment on.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Is the President still committed to calling for a vote on the US-UK resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President will be discussing with Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Aznar the way forward, and I would leave it at that.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But he was very unequivocal in his press conference two weeks ago. And last week on this program, I want to show you: this is what Condi Rice said about calling the votes.

MS. RICE: "President Bush believes that it's time for people to stand up and be counted."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: And he's going to call the vote?

MS. RICE: "He's going to call the vote."

SECRETARY POWELL: The point of it is that we have seen them stand up to be counted. In the case of the French, they have stood up and said, "We'll veto anything."

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: So there's not going to be a vote, necessarily?

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't say that, George. I said that's what they'll be discussing at the Azores meeting this afternoon: how to move forward diplomatically.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But what changed? Why would the President no longer call for a vote?

SECRETARY POWELL: George, I didn't say he would not call for a vote. You keep saying it. What I'm saying is --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But is it an option?

SECRETARY POWELL: What I'm saying, George -- yeah, of course it's an option. They are all -- everything is an option.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But he didn't say it was an option before.

SECRETARY POWELL: Everything is an option, George, and what they are doing this afternoon in the Azores is these three leaders who are the co-sponsors of that resolution, the resolution that is before the Council, they will be discussing the diplomatic way forward. And in the course of time, when they have finished their meeting, I'm sure they will make a statement as to what they have discussed and what they've agreed upon and we'll see what happens in the days ahead.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Let me switch now to the issue of Turkey. Are you now under the assumption that Turkey will not allow U.S. forces to be based?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I'm very pleased that Mr. Erdogan was willing, even before he became Prime Minister, to send the request to the Turkish parliament in the hope that it would be passed. But it was not passed the first time in. And now that he is the prime minister, we are in constant touch with him; we are on the phones with him all the time. As you may recall, I had the foreign minister and the minister of economics in my home until midnight one night working on that economic package. I met with Mr. Erdogan and Prime Minister Gul in Davos a few weeks ago, and I know that they are trying to do everything they can to get that package through.

Now when they will resubmit the package is a matter that's up to --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: They said it could be as long as a week.

SECRETARY POWELL: It could be as long as a week. I've heard different reports.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Isn't that too late?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we would rather it had been a couple of weeks ago, but this is an interesting political situation for Mr. Erdogan because he just became the Prime Minister, he's just putting the government together, getting his vote of confidence in place, and so it hit them at a rather difficult political time, but Turkey is a great friend of ours, a great ally of ours, we are very sensitive to their concerns about their relationship with the situation in northern Iraq and we're working very closely. We're in constant touch with the Turks.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On northern Iraq, have they given you a commitment not to put Turkish forces into northern Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have made it clear that the situation there is volatile and it would be better if there were no Turkish forces in, as part of any military operation that might take place. They are concerned about that area, but they also know that we don't want to see anything happen that would precipitate a crisis between Turkey and the Kurdish populations in northern Iraq.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: On the prospects of military action, Newsweek reported this morning that you objected to the original war plans put forward by Tommy Franks, and obviously you have some standing, you were Chairman of the Joint Chiefs in the last Gulf War. Is that true and are you satisfied now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what they are talking about. I discuss options with my colleagues when we are having our principals meetings, but it is not my -- you know, I didn't object to a war plan. To the extent that I could contribute to the debate on war plans a need the discussion on war plans, I did so. But this business that somehow I am in some kind of fight with Tommy Franks over his war plan is just nonsense.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you were concerned that the original plans provided for much too small of an invading force?

SECRETARY POWELL: That was a matter for Secretary Rumsfeld to deal with General Franks on. It was not something that I got involved in. I watched as the plan developed. It was a matter of discussion between Secretary Rumsfeld and his commanders. And as the plan evolved, Don asked me for my views or I was in meetings where the plans were discussed. It was a very deliberative process and so this business of Powell arguing with Franks or Rumsfeld on the nature of the war plans is just simply not accurate.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But you are satisfied now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not going to talk about war plans. That's Don's job to do. I am confident in his ability, the ability of his team, the ability of the Joint Staff and the ability of General Franks to come up with a war plan that will deal with whatever is ahead. And if military force is going to be used to resolve this matter, I am absolutely confident in General Franks' and all of our commanders' ability to handle this matter.


SECRETARY POWELL: They were my younger officers at one point.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: How do you define success in this operation? If, for example, American troops do not find large caches of biological-chemical weapons, will that be a failure in your mind?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm quite confident they will find evidence of the presence of chemical and biological weapons and some elements of a nuclear infrastructure. And I think that that's -- there's no question about that in my mind. Success, if it comes to a military action, will be a better Iraq, a better life for the Iraqi people, the use of the treasure of Iraq, its oil, for the benefit of its people and not to threaten its neighbors and develop weapons of mass destruction.

Everybody is worried about the conflict. You should worry about a potential conflict. It is always a time of high anxiety. But if it's done well, and I'm confident our military commanders, if they are told to do it by the President, if it has to come to this, will do it well. And we have quite a bit of experience in not only conducting successful military operations but rebuilding a better society afterwards where the Iraqi people can be free of fear, free of torture, free of the kinds of crimes that Saddam Hussein has committed against his own people. And there is a possibility, a strong possibility which we will go after and hopefully seize, to put in place a country that is stable, living in peace with its neighbors and no longer a threat to the regions of the world or the United States.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Finally, sir, the diplomatic effort has come under a lot of criticism here in the States and around the world. We just heard the foreign minister of Spain suggest that a lot of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's rhetoric has not been helpful in this effort. But, you, last fall, convinced the President; it's been widely reported, over the objections of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and Vice President Cheney to go to the United Nations.

They warned that Saddam Hussein would stall, that the French would stall, that it would come to nothing. Looking back, do you now believe they were right?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. They didn't disagree. They agreed with the proposition that we had to take it to the United Nations. When we finally sat around in August and had a meeting with the President about this issue, all of us agreed. Vice President --

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But they were reluctant.

SECRETARY POWELL: All of us agreed: the Vice President, Secretary Rumsfeld, myself, Dr. Rice, the President, the Vice President. We all were together on this. Now, there was a degree of skepticism, a correct degree of skepticism in my mind, as to whether or not the inspection process would work. The test was to put it before Saddam Hussein as a test of him. Is he going to comply this time? Is he going to cooperate? If he were to comply, if he was to cooperate, if he was going to change the nature of his regime, the nature of his politics, his strategy -- then there was a chance for a peaceful solution. But we said at that time that we're giving him one last chance to comply. And that's what 1441 was all about: one last chance to get on the right side of the international community. And we were unified going into that as a team in the administration.

Were there degrees of skepticism? Yes. Of course there were.

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: But do you feel like you were undercut by hawks in the administration? That's also been widely reported.

SECRETARY POWELL: Lots of things get widely reported. We went forward under the President's leadership to take it to the UN. We went as a team to the United Nations and we have -- we fought hard for seven weeks to get a powerful resolution. And that resolution reaffirms the basis in international law to take military action if it's required. And it was 15-0. Whether people now like it or not, it was 15-0. And that remains the basis for any further action we might take.

Now, would I like to have seen others come to the same conclusion that we did -- that there is a total lack of compliance on the part of Saddam Hussein, that all we are seeing is games? Of course. Would I have liked to have seen a second resolution because it would have helped our friends with some of their political difficulties? Yes. Do we need a second resolution? No. And that's what our leaders will be talking about in the Azores this afternoon: what is the next step with respect to diplomacy or other actions that might be required?

MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: Secretary Powell, thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, George.

Released on March 16, 2003

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