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Interview on CBS's Face the Nation With Bob Schieffer

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
May 4, 2003

(10:30 a.m. EDT)

MR. SCHIEFFER: Today on Face the Nation, Secretary of State, Colin Powell, on "Iraq, the Middle East and Terrorism." The Secretary returned early this morning from Syria and Lebanon and will go to Israel later this week to lay the groundwork for President Bush's roadmap to peace in the region.

Did Syria pledge to cooperate? Are Iraqi leaders hiding there? And where are those weapons of mass destruction?

These are the questions for Secretary Powell; then we'll talk with Time magazine columnist, Joe Klein, about the South Carolina debate and politics. I'll have the final word on another hero of 9/11, and his daughter's determination that he not be forgotten. But, first, Secretary of State Powell on Face the Nation.

VOICE: Face the Nation with CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer. And now from CBS News in Washington, Bob Schieffer.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Here with us now, the Secretary of State; joining in the pressroom with us this morning, Dana Priest, of The Washington Post.

Mr. Secretary, thank you. I know you have had only a couple of hours sleep since you got back home from Syria. You reported yesterday that Syria has begun to close some of the offices of the terrorists there. How significant is that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's significant that Syria said that they are going to do this, and they are also going to restrict some of their other activities. And we had some other suggestions that Syria might take, with respect to these organizations, so that they no longer are disrupting peace efforts in the Middle East, and we'll wait and see whether President Bashar Assad acts on all of these suggestions that we provided to him. Performance is what's key here.

The real reason for my trip and the conversations that I had with President Bashar Assad was to just show him and remind him and point out to him that we have a different strategic situation with the fall of Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq, and with the beginning of our activities toward the roadmap in support of Prime Minister Abu Mazen of the Palestinian Authority.

Let's take advantage of this new strategic environment, and Syria should review its policies and realize that any support toward the military aspects of this follow up, or with respect to the other terrorists organizations that had a presence in Damascus, it is time to make a judgment on the part of the Syrian Government that this no longer serves anyone's interest. It certainly doesn't serve their interest, and I hope that he will act on those suggestions.

MR. SCHIEFFER: We'll get to the roadmap in just a second. But among the things that you asked him to do, did you ask him to cut off financial support for these terrorist groups --


MR. SCHIEFFER: -- and did he agree to do that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I gave him a number of issues that had to do how these terrorist organizations are financed, funded, and supported within Syria. And we will see how he acts on the different suggestions that we have provided to them. He did say, however, that the offices were closed, and that other actions would be taken to restrict their public activities. And so the question isn't what he assured me that he would do or what promises he gave to me, the only thing we're interested in is what actual action he takes and performance.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Let me make sure I understand. You are pleased with what he told you he intends to do. Now you are going --

SECRETARY POWELL: Obviously, obviously, obviously I welcome what he said he was going to do. And I hope he, on reflection, is willing to do even more. But the only thing that really counts is performance, not my temporary pleasure.

It's important to not go -- that in the conversation with President Bashar Assad, I made the point that as we move forward on the roadmap -- and I know you're going to come to that -- we are interested not only in peace between the Israelis and Palestinians, but a comprehensive settlement that would include the interest of the Syrians and the Golan Heights issue, as well as an interest like the Lebanese as well. We are looking for a comprehensive settlement, and the President's vision of last June was directed toward a full and comprehensive settlement of all of the outstanding issues in --

MS. PRIEST: But did you also give him a promise that if he cooperated that at a date certain you would take Syria off the terrorist list?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, and I gave him no such promise or date certain. I talked to the President about a number of issues over a three hour period, not only support for these kinds of organizations, but weapons of mass destruction, harboring any fugitives that might come out of Iraq, keeping the borders sealed, making sure that Syria plays a positive role, with respect to the reconstruction in Iraq, as well as the bringing up of a new political leadership in Iraq that will follow the democratic process.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Was there any kind of time limit? Did you set any kind of time limit on what you expect?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, he knows what I expect, what the United States expects, what the international community expects. And these are not simple issues for him, and it lists everything that is outstanding in our agenda. And he also knows that there are consequences that are lurking in the background, whether it's the Syria Accountability Act that some members of Congress are considering, or a triggering of the Patriot Act, which would have consequences for Syria, with respect to terrorist financing.

And so it was a full discussion of all of the outstanding items. But it was in the context not just here are these items, it was in the context of it's a new day out here in this part of the world. And you can be a part of the positive future, or you can just stay in the past with the policies you have been following, the choice is yours.

MS. PRIEST: How many Iraqi officials do you think are still in Syria?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. We have -- they have -- some have been made available to them, let me put it that way. Who we knew were there have no -- are no longer there. They have been made available to us, and they will be before the bar of justice of the Iraqi people.

MS. PRIEST: Who could remain?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are other names that we have passed back and forth, to see whether they can be located, but my sense from President Bashar Assad is that he has no interest in serving as a haven for any of these individuals. So I think if we can give him information, and give him specific names, and anything else we can fair about these people, I think he would try to respond. Syria has been helpful over the past 18 months to two years on our efforts in the global war against terrorism. There has been a level of cooperation between us and the Syrian intelligence, which has been useful. We'd like to see them to keep moving in that direction.

I also said, "There may be people in Syria that we don't know about, but you know about. And we would expect you, if you really want to have a more positive relationship with us and with your new neighbors in Iraq, this is the time to locate these individuals and turn them over to Iraq justice and not allow Syria to become haven for materials that might be coming out of Iraq still or came out of Iraq or individuals who are trying to seek haven."

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, you remember before all of this started, you went before the United Nations and talked about weapons of mass destruction. You said, "We had evidence that large scores of these weapons were there." Nobody has found them yet. Did you get any information while you were there about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not from the Syrians, no. And they say that they have taken in no weapons of mass destruction from Iraq. Their position is that they think it unlikely that Saddam Hussein would have trusted them with such weapons. Nevertheless, we will continue to watch carefully, and any information or indications we have, we will follow up on them. I am still confident that weapons of mass destruction will be found.

You have to keep in mind, however, that when we passed UN Resolution 1441 on a vote of 15 to zero, just voting for that resolution signs you up to the proposition that Iraq was not coming clean, with respect to their weapons of mass destruction programs. They were found guilty in that resolution, all 15 members of the Security Council who voted for it, guilty of having thwarted the role of the United Nations for 12 years, with respect to answering questions with -- concerning the weapons of mass destruction programs.

When we said things such as, "What happened to all of the anthrax material you had? What happened to the botulinan toxics? Explain the discrepancies that exist." They refused to do so. Now whether we ever find that amount of material, or are able to resolve the discrepancies, remains to be seen. But I am absolutely sure that they had weapons of mass destruction, and I am sure we will find them. And it was the judgment of the United Nations when that resolution was passed that we all believe the same thing.

MS. PRIEST: Well, Secretary Powell, you made an iron clad case at the UN. You said, "up to 500 tons of chemical agents, and mobile biological labs." It's begun, some people say, to look as if you have over -- you overstated the case. Have you gone back to the intelligence community and asked why is it that we haven't found anything yet?

SECRETARY POWELL: The case that I presented on the fifth of February was a well-documented, well-sourced case that was presented by the entire intelligence community. It wasn't something that just came off the top of my head, and we spent days getting that presentation ready with every senior representative present in our briefings and in our preparations.

The intelligence community stands behind that information, I do, and I am confident that evidence will be found that will show that the United States and its coalition partners had a basis for acting under UN Resolution 1441 because of the presence of weapons of mass destruction.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Dana's paper, the Washington Post, reports this morning that one of the nuclear sites appears now to have been heavily looted. What does that mean? Does that mean somebody may have gotten some nuclear weapons?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't know what that means. I read the article. But I haven't received reporting from Central Command or the Pentagon or our intelligence sources, as to what was there, what is not now there, whether it was under IAEA supervision, and exactly what it was that was looted. A quick reading of the article suggested there might have been some storage tanks that -- barrels that somebody thought might be there, but aren't there. And I don't know what their disposition was. So I can't -- I can't say --

MS. PRIEST: But isn't the real question, if you are really concerned that nuclear-related materials were at these sites, why weren't Special Forces there immediately, and why were they taking --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that there was a special concern that there was nuclear-related material at that particular site. I know that early on, we looked at some sites down around in Tuwaitha. But whether or not this particular site was a site of high concern or not, I can't answer that question without checking with my colleagues.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Mr. Secretary, quickly, we want to get to this Middle East roadmap. You are going back to Israel this week. Are you going to tell Prime Minister Sharon that it is absolutely imperative that the Israelis begin to free settlements?

SECRETARY POWELL: It is our policy that settlement activity has to end, as part of the comprehensive solution. I think that is clear. I think it is clear from the President's statements over time. It is an element of the President's 24 June vision speech of last year, and it is part of the roadmap. It has been part of previous efforts, part of the Mitchell plan, and part of the other initiatives before us. Unless we ultimately freeze settlements, end settlement activity, then we will not be able to find a comprehensive solution to this.

So there are obligations and difficult choices ahead for both sides, and it begins with ending terror and violence. And Israel can work with the Palestinian Authority now that it has responsible leadership under Mr. Abu Mazen, as Prime Minister, and Mohammed Dahlan, as head of security, and they are no longer just stuck with Arafat, who is a failed leader. We have new leadership. I think we now have a partner that we can work with; that the Israelis can work with. And it is important now, not just to debate, you know, language, or what's in the roadmap, what should be in the roadmap, what's not in the roadmap, but let's see performance on the part of both sides.

MS. PRIEST: Are you suggesting that President Bush should recognize Abu Mazen and bring him to the White House?

SECRETARY POWELL: President Bush has recognized him. He has been selected by the Palestinian people to be their Prime Minister. I look forward to meeting with him in the very near future as the Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority. And, in due course, I am sure the President would be pleased to see him. It's premature to start speculating on when that might be. What we have to see is -- give him time to get up and running. And I hope in my upcoming visit, I'll have a chance to sit with President -- Prime Minister Abu Mazen, listen to his hopes, his aspirations, his plans, and how he -- how he plans to move forward.

MR. SCHIEFFER: Final question. Can you ever envision the United States putting peacekeepers in Israel if some kind of an agreement can be worked out?

SECRETARY POWELL: Two years ago, we indicated a willingness to provide U.S. monitors. If we could get some traction and reach the point where a monitoring function was appropriate, the U.S. would be willing to put in monitors under that set of circumstances -- monitors, not peacekeepers, not armed peacekeepers, but monitors, who would serve as a -- as a balance between the two sides, serve to work out differences that might occur. But what we really need is good faith efforts and performance on the part of both sides, and then a monitoring function becomes an appropriate thing to do.

MS. PRIEST: Why not --

MR. SCHIEFFER: Good. I'm sorry. We have to end it right there. Thank you so much, Mr. Secretary.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Pleasure to have you.


MR. SCHIEFFER: Hope to see you soon.

Released on May 4, 2003

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