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Interview on Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation with Salameh Nemaat

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
April 24, 2003

MR. NEMAAT: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It's a pleasure. The Iraqi interim authority. What's the mechanism for setting up that authority and what's your role at the State Department?

SECRETARY POWELL: The State Department is working very closely with the President's Special Envoy, Ambassador Khalilzad. I have Ambassador Ryan Crocker from the State Department working with Ambassador Khalilzad, and they're working for General Franks and they have started to hold regional meetings. They had one in An-Nasiriya not too long ago, and this Monday they will be having other meetings.

And as they go from region to region, they will be identifying leaders who rise up from the communities that they are in, and they will also be identifying members of the external opposition who have worked so hard to bring about this moment of liberation for the Iraqi people.

And as these meetings take place and leaders emerge, slowly, we believe the leadership will emerge that will create the interim Afghan -- sorry, interim Iraqi authority. And that will become an embryonic government that will eventually grow into a full government for the people of Iraq by the people of Iraq.

MR. NEMAAT: What is there is no agreement on this? Is there an authority going to be imposed even if there are groups that boycott such meetings, such as the Shiite groups that boycotted the Nasiriya meeting?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I'm sure there will be some who will be not happy with the process. In a system now that we have where people are free to speak, there will always be some who are not happy with a particular outcome. But I am confident that we can find enough people representing the people of Iraq that an interim authority can be formed on the way to a full government.

We want to reach that point where with a full government everybody can represented in one way or another, to include those who disagree most strongly with the policies of the government that happens to be in power at that moment.

MR. NEMAAT: We think there are groups setting up quasi-governments in some areas, in some cities. Are you planning to dismantle these groups?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think we can allow individuals to go around setting up governments on their own, somebody showing up in a city and saying, "I'm now the mayor," or, "I'm now the governor." I think it has to be something that comes from the people. And so the initial authority in the country will be General Franks. General Franks has to be the initial authority in order to stabilize the situation, provide security for the people, bring in humanitarian aid for the people, recreate the ministries. General Garner is now there working on all of these things. And I think General Franks will carefully create conditions under which people can determine who their leaders will be, who their mayors and their governors will be, not somebody coming in and saying, "I decided that I'm the mayor, whether anyone likes it or not."

MR. NEMAAT: The Iranian infiltrations into Iraq and the U.S. warning to them, are you satisfied with the statement by the Iranian Foreign Minister saying that they have no intention in meddling in Iraqi affairs?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am pleased with the statement and I hope that turns out to be the case and I hope that his statement represents all parts of the Iranian Government. I think it would be very unfortunate if, in this moment of liberation, we suddenly saw elements from Iran coming into the southern part of Iraq to create conditions that would be very unstable conditions. And so we recognize that there is movement back and forth across that border because the two peoples are close to one another and have been historically, but we don't want to see any nation coming in and imposing any kind of undue influence on any part of the country. It's important for the coalition to do its job and turn the Iraqi people over -- turn the Iraqi nation over to the Iraqi people and not let outsiders from the neighborhood come in and exercise undue influence.

MR. NEMAAT: The U.S. is patrolling the borders. There was also an Iranian warning to the States not to have any incursions into the Iranian territories.

SECRETARY POWELL: We have no plans to cause any kind of incursion or to cross over into Iran. We have no reason to do so.

MR. NEMAAT: Now, concerning Syria, are you going there with assurances to the Syrians that they will not be targeted next, or are you going with an ultimatum?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is no reason for me to go either with that kind of assurance or an ultimatum. It's not an issue. The President has made it clear that we have issues with the Syrian Government that I'm going there to talk to them about, whether it's support for terrorist organizations or development of weapons of mass destruction, or what we need them to do with respect to sealing their border and not letting former officials of the Hussein regime find a haven in Syria. The Syrians have shown some positive signs and taken some positive steps lately, and I will be going to talk to them about those. I'm not going to issue ultimatum.

MR. NEMAAT: A specific list of demands?

SECRETARY POWELL: Syria is well aware of our concerns, and what we're going to do is discuss those concerns in a spirit of openness and candor, and I will not hold back the strength of our feelings on these positions. And I've met previously with the President and the Foreign Minister on a number of occasions, and I'm sure they will not hold back in responding. And so we will have a good, strong, candid dialogue, and I'm looking forward to it.

MR. NEMAAT: Concerning the roadmap, the implementation of the roadmap, you said that there should be both sides should perform and prevent violence. Are we saying that the roadmap won't be implemented unless the violence ceases? And if it doesn't, does it mean it's frozen?

SECRETARY POWELL: The roadmap is a way forward. The roadmap lays out the obligations and responsibilities of each of the parties, and I think it can lead, if followed, to the creation of a Palestinian state and security for its neighbor, Israel. And that's what the roadmap is about.

But let's be candid. Let's be very open and candid. Unless terrorism and violence stops, then it's almost impossible to get going on any process toward peace, whether it's a roadmap or some other document or the Mitchell Plan or the Tenet Plan -- all of these previous efforts have been frustrated by continuing resort to violence and terrorism. And so I hope that Prime Minister Abu Mazen and Minister Dahlan, when they are confirmed, will work hard to end the violence, end the terrorism, and that will create conditions that will allow us to go forward.

And everybody tries to get you into a rhetorical trap. Are you saying nothing can happen until this happens? What we want is to put down the roadmap, show both sides what their obligations and responsibilities are, and have both sides start working with each other, talking to one another, coordinating with each other, with the help of the United States and other members of the Quartet and other members of the international community, to help them move forward together and begin to take those steps that will let them get going on the roadmap and will lead to peace.

MR. NEMAAT: You mention Abu Mazen. Is Arafat irrelevant now?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Arafat is there. Mr. Arafat still occupies a position within the hearts and minds of the Palestinian people. And I can't remove that and I wouldn't even try to.

But at the same time, it is well know that we do not believe that Mr. Arafat has shown the kind of leadership that is needed to take us through this crisis. He has missed opportunities over the years. And so that's why we felt it was important for there to be a transformation in the Palestinian Authority and the designation of a Prime Minister who has authority to take those actions that we believe are necessary to get us moving in the right direction.

MR. NEMAAT: Mr. Secretary, we appreciate this. My time is up. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: A pleasure. Thank you.

Released on April 24, 2003

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