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Interview With Spanish Television, TVE

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Madrid, Spain
May 1, 2003

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State Powell, in your tour of different capitals, why Madrid? What is the frame of your conversations with Mr. Aznar and Ms. Palacio?

SECRETATY POWELL: Well, I was anxious to visit Madrid to express my appreciation directly to President Aznar and to Minister Palacio for the strong support that Spain has provided to the coalition that liberated Iraq. And frankly, it's to bring a message to the Spanish people that they should be very proud of the stand that their government has taken. I know there was a great deal of concern and there was a great deal of popular opposition, but look what we've achieved: their dictator is gone, the people are free, people are now being fed, humanitarian supplies are flowing into the country, the electrical system is being fixed, and the Iraqi people are already becoming part of the process, the political process to determine how they will be governed in the future. So we have given a hopeful future for the people of Iraq as a result of the coalition effort, and we have gotten rid of a regime that was terrorizing its own people, that was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, and I wanted to express my appreciation to President Aznar. Of course, President Aznar is coming to Washington next week to see his good friend President George Bush, and it was an opportunity to review our bilateral agenda before then.

QUESTION: In the future, what kind of cooperation do you expect from Spain in Iraq? Do you expect humanitarian, economic aid?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, from my discussions with Foreign Minister Palacio, it's clear that Spain wants to play an active role in the future of Iraq. And we talked about potential military contributions in peacekeeping efforts, and we talked about humanitarian support, financial support, for the coalition's efforts to help the Iraqi people. And of course, Spain is a member of the Security Council, a very important member of the Security Council, so it was an opportunity for us also to discuss the way forward in the Security Council to help the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: What do you see as the reason there are people refusing, this past week in Fallujah, for instance, cooperation with the American soldiers? Do you think the population will escalate this kind of provocation?

SECRETARY POWELL. I don't know if it will escalate, and frankly, most of the country elsewhere is pretty stable. There are instances here and there. In Fallujah, we've had three days of demonstrations, and we need to make sure that we have enough presence there to control the situation, and our commanders are now working to find out the sources of the grievances that people have, and hopefully the situation will calm down in the near future. One should not be surprised that, after an operation such as we've just had, Operation Iraqi Freedom, there will be a period of continuing hostilities, not like having a war, but there will still be a lack of security in certain places. And people for the first time are free to demonstrate, and sometimes demonstrations get out of control. We'll continue to convey to the Iraqi people that we are there to help them—we are not there to occupy the country. We will only stay long enough to make sure that they have in place a representative form of government, and that the situation is stable, and then let the Iraqi people be in charge of their own future, their own destiny.

QUESTION: Talking about the future of Iraq—will it be possible to build a democratic system—they've never had a democratic system. They have lived under British rule, under a monarchy, and under Saddam. Will it be hard to build one?

SECRETARY POWELL: It will be a challenging, but it is now possible. If you look at what has been going on in the Northern part of Iraq, where the Kurds have been for the last 10 years free of rule from Saddam Hussein, they have put in place a system of government that is more representative, certainly, than the rest of Iraq. So there is no reason that the Iraqi people can't have a democracy of the kind that you and I would recognize, not identical to Spanish democracy or American democracy, but there is nothing inconsistent between being a Muslim country, and also a democracy, a representative form of government—even though it's a new experience for them. It's a new experience for many countries in the world, I mean you look at the countries behind the Iron Curtain that are now free and they have put together democracies after decades of being pressured by dictators, in Moscow and in their own capitals. So we should not immediately assume the Iraqi people have never had it before, therefore they don't know how to do it now. We'll help them, and we're encouraged. The first two meetings that we have held with political leaders, they've come, they've sat, they've argued, they've debated with each other, they have agreed, they've disagreed, they've come out with a statement of principles—this is democracy by definition.

QUESTION: You are going to be in the Middle East later this month. Do you think it is possible to agree with these proposals, with the road map? Is it the same old process with a new name?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is a significant difference now, and that is that the Palestinian Authority has begun to transform itself. A new Finance Minister came in some months ago-has grabbed hold of Palestinian finances, and we now have confidence that their finances are being dealt with in a transparent, uncorrupt way. That was an encouraging element of transformation. And now we have a new Prime Minister, Mr. Abu Mazen, and he has independent authority, not just authority from Arafat—he has been empowered by the Palestinian legislature. And he has already come out, immediately, the first day, condemned violence, and said we must stop this, we must end the terror. Mr. Arafat, in our judgment, is a failed leader. He led the Palestinian people for all those years, but didn't lead them. He did not get them a state, he did not get them peace, he just led them from one intifada to the next. The United States felt strongly, and Pres. Bush gave a speech last June, that said we must help transform the leadership of the Palestinian authority. We are now seeing that transformed leadership come forward. Mr. Fayyad, the Finance Minister, and now with the new Prime Minister, and Muhammad Dahlan , as Minister of State for Security Issues. And we hope that this puts this new face on the Palestinian Authority—the Israeli side will find a partner for peace and they can begin working with each other. But it's a bit much to expect that the road map goes down one day, and the next day everything is fine—there are no more bombings, there are no more actions on the part of the Israelis. Remember, there are people, there are groups in the Palestinian Authority who don't want to see progress, they don't want to see a road map working. So as soon as progress starts they will do everything they can to stop it. We must not let them stop it, we must not let them lose this last chance that the Palestinian people have for statehood.

QUESTION: Is it possible to expect an official investigation from Washington on the case of the Spanish cameraman Jose Couso?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are continuing to look into it. Commander General Franks has launched an inquiry to find out what else we can find out about it, what more information might be available. I don't know if we'll learn any more, other than that it was a tragic incident, an accident of war. We knew that hotel was full of journalists and others, and that's why we've never targeted it. It was never on our target list to be struck by aircraft. But what happened on that day was, it wasn't being attacked by aircraft, there was a battle on the ground taking place around the hotel, and our troops were being fired at. And they have to protect themselves, they have to defend themselves, and more than that, they have to go after the enemy that's shooting at them. It was a battle zone, and unfortunately in the course of that battle, our troops took actions which resulted in the death of several people, including this gentleman, and I extend my condolences once again to his family, and extended my condolences to Minister Palacio. But it truly was an accident that happened in the course of war. Thirteen journalists were killed in the course of this conflict. Not one did we want to see killed or was targeted. Some were killed by Iraqi action, some were killed as a result of friendly fire, all regrettably. We tried to warn everybody who was in the theatre, that it is dangerous to be in the middle of a battleground, and I very much regret the loss of this life.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, thank you very much for this time.


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