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Remarks with Jordanian Foreign Minister Marwan Jamil Al-Muasher After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
April 28, 2003

(11:35 a.m. EDT)

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, everyone. It's been my pleasure to host Foreign Minister Muasher of Jordan. We had a good conversation and, as you might expect, we talked about the two topics of the day of greatest interest to us, and that was where we are in Iraq, and now that, for the most part, the serious hostilities are over, although we have not yet finished cleaning up all the pockets of resistance; nevertheless, you can see that our attention has turned to dealing with humanitarian needs, and I am pleased that food is not a problem in the country and we're hard at work fixing the electrical grid and making sure that the people of Iraq have clean water and the other things needed for satisfactory daily life.

We will begin the effort of rebuilding the ministries. And as you know from the meeting taking place in Baghdad today, work is also underway to help the Iraqi people create a new government that will be representative of all the Iraqi people.

So we discussed this issue in some detail and then we moved to the Middle East peace process, and I reaffirmed President Bush's commitment to the release, with the other members of the Quartet, the roadmap as soon as Prime Minister Designate Abu Mazen has been confirmed by the PLC, and we hope that will be in the next several days. And both the Minister and I expressed our hopes that both parties, the Palestinians and the Israelis, will grab this new opportunity to achieve progress along the path to peace through the use of this roadmap.

So we are encouraged by this development, the transformation within the Palestinian Authority that will allow the Palestinian people to have a Prime Minister who can be a responsible partner working with Israel and working with the United States, members of the Quartet, and the countries in the region, the leaders in the region, to move forward to our goal, which is to create a Palestinian state in the period of time that President Bush suggested, within a three-year period of time.

And so, Mr. Minister, as always, it's a great pleasure to have had you here.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: Thank you, sir. Let me thank Secretary Powell for this very productive meeting. We discussed, of course, again the two main issues on the region's mind -- Iraq and the peace process. We emphasized the need to start the political process in Iraq that would lead to the formation of a credible and representative Iraqi government so we can get on with the process of rebuilding Iraq and the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.

On the peace process, I'm very encouraged by what I heard from the Secretary about the President's resolve to get ahead with the roadmap. We are all looking forward to the time when the roadmap will be announced, in a few days hopefully. More importantly, I think there is serious work ahead of us in making sure that the roadmap is implemented at a very early time and in an honest manner that would restart the peace process that would give the people hope that they can live in peace and security and that would get us to the time when a Palestinian state will be established alongside Israel and where the occupation -- again, the Israeli occupation -- will end.

I look forward to working with the Secretary on these issues and I believe that the time has come in the Middle East to truly look at all the problems of the Middle East in a way that would end all conflicts there.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, is the U.S. -- are you getting support from Europeans and Arab governments -- I could ask the Minister, too -- on your, what should I say, hopes for a transformation of the leadership of, frankly, a sidetracking of Yasser Arafat, bringing to the fore Abu Mazen? Is the U.S. alone on this or is it reinforced?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I don't think we're alone. Clearly, we have been ahead of our European colleagues with respect to calling for transformation in the leadership of the Palestinian Authority, but I think I can speak for the members of the Quartet when we say that we welcome the appointment of a Prime Minister who we believe can be a partner to work with members of the Quartet and others in the region to move the peace process along. Chairman Arafat is there, but I believe we need new, reinvigorated leadership of a kind that we hope Mr. Abu Mazen will bring to the table, a kind that Mustafa Fayad, the Minister of Finance, is bringing to the table.

And this is not the time to look back. It's a time to look forward and do everything we can to help the new Prime Minister.

QUESTION: Mr. Minister, is that something you have something to say about?

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: This is, the Palestinian reform process is that, a Palestinian process that is internal and that is ongoing, and we believe that the recent developments have been very encouraging. You have a new government, you have a Prime Minister with authority, and you have ministers that are authorized with going on with some very serious work, both on security and finance, among other things.

We support the new Palestinian government and we intend to work with it in order to make sure that the proper conditions are created on the ground that would help in relaunching the peace process.

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Minister, you've spoken about moving ahead with the roadmap, but also that you would like to see more of a U.S. engagement, not only rolling out the roadmap. Could you describe what kind of U.S. engagement you would like to see going forward?

And, Secretary Powell, on North Korea. The North Koreans, there have been some reports out through the Chinese that the North Koreans offered to scrap their nuclear program, not do any testing, in exchange for security guarantees by the United States. Is there anything you could say on that?

Thank you.

FOREIGN MINISTER MUASHER: Well, I think what we all want to see is tangible differences on the ground, differences that would indicate to Palestinians in particular that there is, indeed, hope that the peace process is finally relaunched and that their lives have changed. We would like to see Israel lift the curfews, stop demolition of homes. We would like to see an end to settlement activity and we would like to see the security situation also stabilized. So these are the kind of early activities that we will be looking at to see whether we can, indeed, translate the roadmap into a tangible difference on the ground.

SECRETARY POWELL: The trilateral meeting that we held with the Chinese and the North Koreans last week in Beijing, I think turned out to be quite useful. The North Koreans acknowledged a number of things that they were doing and, in effect, said these are now up for further discussion. They did put forward a plan that would ultimately deal with their nuclear capability and their missile activities. But they, of course, expect something considerable in return. And so we are studying that plan. We are examining it with our friends and allies. We are staying in the closest touch with the South Koreans, the Japanese, the Chinese, Russians, Australians and others. And so I think it was useful to get it all out on the table and see where we go from here.

They've never used the word "testing." You suggested they threatened to test. But they never used the word "test" and they said that it is the kind of capability that one can display in one way or another. And we're taking all of this seriousness and now that Assistant Secretary Kelly is back, we'll be spending quite a bit of time going over his notes and his impressions on what he heard.

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Chinese Government for not only hosting this meeting but being a full participant in this first multilateral session.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, have you asked the Jordanians in any manner to help work with the Syrians for moderation, and also to ask for special policing and other type of army-type infrastructure to go in to Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it didn't come up in the course of -- the second part of your question didn't come up in the course of our conversation. And I don't know if the Minister wishes to say a word to that point.

With respect to Syria, we always discuss Syria when we are together, and as you know, I plan to travel to Syria in the not too distant future and have a full range of conversations with the Syrian leadership over issues that are on our mind that are of concern to us and that we have been speaking about rather openly in recent weeks. And I'm sure we'll have complete and comprehensive discussions with the Syrians, and I hope that in light of the changed circumstances in the region, not only with respect to what happened in Iraq but with the likelihood that the roadmap is about to be placed down over the next several days, I hope that these two elements -- changed circumstance in Iraq and the roadmap -- will have caused the Syrians to review all of our their policies and give some consideration to changing those policies which we believe have not been helpful in the past.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there were reports over the weekend that North Korea actually told the State Department on March 31st that it had begun this reprocessing, although the press didn't find out about it until a later date. And there are some allegations that the rest of the administration didn't find out about it, or other agencies. Can you address that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. That's nonsense. Over a period of time, the North Koreans have made different statements about reprocessing and whether they are or are not reprocessing, and we always examine those statements and we try to determine the validity of those statements. And our intelligence community still cannot give us any validation or confirmation of what North Korea has said at various times and in various places with respect to reprocessing.

So what we were told on the 31st was shared within the administration. I'm not sure if everybody in the administration got it, but it isn't relevant because it didn't seem to be anything that was terribly new or different from what we had been told on a regular basis over the last several months. It was not, in our judgment, anything that was particularly new or newsworthy.

Thank you.

(The Secretary escorts the Minister to his car.)

QUESTION: Can you answer one more question, please, sir? In Cuba, the Cubans have really cracked down on people just trying to exercise their rights. The Pope, this weekend, condemned this. Is there anything that the U.S. can do now to help these people or to help the situation?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are reviewing all of our policies and our approach toward Cuba in light of what I think is a deteriorating human rights situation within Cuba, and we have been rather forceful in our denunciation of these activities and I am very pleased that His Holiness has also commented on the situation. Long terms of imprisonment -- 12, 15, 20 years -- for speaking out and trying to exercise basic human rights, this just once again illustrates the nature of that regime under this dictator. Fidel Castro has been doing this for many years.

And so I hope the whole world will now see this regime for what it is, a regime that is one of the last of its kind on the face of the earth and really is an aberration in the Western Hemisphere when you look at how all other nations in our hemisphere, except for Cuba, are trying to find the way forward with democracy and free enterprise system and individual rights and liberty, and Castro continues to do nothing but oppress, suppress his people, suppress opinion. And we're reviewing all of our policies.

Thank you.

Released on April 28, 2003

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