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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > May

Interview on Egypt's Nile Television

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Cairo, Egypt
May 12, 2003

QUESTION: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, we thank you very much for talking to Egyptian television again.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks very much, my pleasure.

QUESTION: Thank you sir. You just wound up your talks with the Palestinians and the Israelis. You told me in a press conference today that you did not hear the word "accept the roadmap" from the Israeli side. Does this disappoint you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I did not hear "accept", I did not hear "not accept". The roadmap is out. We have released it. It is the U.S. position with respect to how we should move forward to achieve the vision of the President of the United States, as well as the vision of the Arab world as put forward by the Arab League at the Beirut summit last year. So we believe that this roadmap has all the steps in it needed for both sides to reach an agreement that would result in the creation of the Palestinian state. It is the U.S. position that the roadmap is good and should be followed. It is the position of the Palestinian Authority that they accept it and all of its elements. The Israeli side has some questions and they want to offer some comments to it. And so we will receive those comments.

I am very pleased that Prime Minister Sharon will have a chance to talk to Prime Minister Abbas in the very near future and they can talk directly to each other. And so while we are arguing over the word "accept", "do not accept", where are we, what is the standing of the roadmap in the eyes of the Israelis, what’s more important - in my judgment - is that both sides start to act, both sides start to take steps, that will show to the Israeli people and to the Palestinian people that a process has begun. And in fact both sides have started to take steps that are very consistent with the roadmap. The Palestinian side, through the action of their legislature, created the position of Prime Minister, and Mr. Arafat nominated Abu Mazen and Abu Mazen was confirmed by the new legislature. We now have a new leader who can work with the Israelis and work with the United States. And on the Israeli side, over the last twenty-four hours Prime Minister Sharon has announced some steps, some gestures that he is making and will take and these are the kinds of gestures that we wanted the Israeli side to make in order to get started.

QUESTION: Are they enough? They are modest gestures.

SECRETARY: ...Well, I don’t know, they will never be enough for some people and for other people there are too many. They shouldn’t be doing anything. I think what we are seeing though is a willingness on the part of the Israeli side to begin moving and some of these gestures or steps as I would prefer to call them, are important. People have been released from prison-one of the expectations on the Palestinian side. There will be some increased openings and access. I think that’s very good.

QUESTION: There are still roadblocks…

Yes, and there will be roadblocks as long as there is a concern with respect to security. We will not be able to clear out all the roadblocks and clear out all check points, but what we have to do is get started. And that is what we are trying to do-get started. With each step, there is a little bit greater confidence between the two sides, we have to start rebuilding trust and that is what is important. And ultimately if trust is rebuilt, if the two sides start talking to one another-that is why I believe the meeting between the two Prime Ministers is so important-the two sides start talking to one another. This will be the first time Prime Minister Sharon is talking with a Palestinian leader in some time. This is a good step forward.

QUESTION: So, Secretary Powell, you said that Prime Minister Sharon is coming to Washington on the 20th of May, I believe, he has questions and he needs to hear comments. How far is this Administration willing to accommodate the questions that Prime Minister Sharon has, that is we know about fifteen reservations so far?

SECRETARY POWELL: He has raised a number of issues, his cabinet has raised a number of issues and had a number of comments. I think most of those comments can be dealt with by the roadmap. We can explain how the roadmap deals with those comments, there may be others that are more difficult. I don’t want to prejudge what he may say to the President of the United States, or what the President might say back to Prime Minister Sharon. But the roadmap that we have released is the roadmap that we finalized last December with the Quartet. We have not changed it. We still, the United States’ position, is that this roadmap is appropriate to the circumstance and should be followed. The important thing here is that Prime Minister Sharon is coming to see President Bush and President Bush has made it clear to everyone and in recent conversations he certainly made it clear once again to me, that he is now determined to move forward now that the Iraqi regime is no longer a problem and we have dealt with one of the major threats to peace in the region and the world and now that we do have a Palestinian Prime Minister who the United States can work with. We have new opportunities before us and President Bush intends to take advantage of those new opportunities.

QUESTION: So, on the question of the settlements, what kind of response did you get from Prime Minister Sharon about the issue of the settlements? It is clear that the Israeli government is adamant about this settlement issue; it has always been a thorny issue.

SECRETARY POWELL: The settlements issue has always been a problem. The United States’ position is clear; we want to see settlement activity ended. The outposts will have to go. The issue of settlements that are already there now and might in view of some make it difficult to create a Palestinian state in a contiguous, sensible way, those will have to be dealt with as we go down the road with the two sides talking to one another, as we define the elements of a provisional state and the elements of a final state. But our position right now is that some activity should end, the outposts have to go. And then those settlements that are already there, how we deal with that as we go forward is an issue. We are talking about people who are, who live there with their families and who have lived there in some cases for more than one generation. So it is not just a simple matter of saying "settlement be gone". It is going to have to be a subject of intense conversation between the two sides with the assistance of the United States and other members of the international community.

QUESTION: There is resistance-I read in the Washington Post-there is resistance from key allies in the Congress, both Democrats and Republicans, trying to persuade President Bush to take a more staunch, or to be more staunchly supportive of Israel and not to pressure them on the issue of the roadmap?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are always many voices in Washington, but the voice I listen to and the voice that counts is the voice of the President. What President Bush has said is that he intends to drive forward to try to find a peaceful solution that will allow the Palestinian people to have their own state, living side by side in peace with Israel. And he will do what is necessary to achieve that vision. It is a clear vision that he has, he shared it with our Arab friends in the region, he shared it with the world. And sometimes he will put pressure on the Palestinian side, other times he will put pressure on the Israeli side. He understands that both sides have commitments, have obligations and have responsibilities and he is going to work with both sides, congratulate both sides as appropriate and pressure both sides as needed.

QUESTION: Does this mean he is going be personally involved?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Like his…the former president?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, President Bush has his own style and his own way of engaging in issues, but I think we have all seen, the world has seen since the beginning of this administration that President Bush is a man of principle, and when he says he is going to do something people should listen and follow him, because he will follow through on his commitment.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, on February 5th you went before the United Nations and you said that you were quite confident that weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq, there are scores of it. Nothing has been proven so far regarding weapons of mass destruction and Ambassador Boucher last week was saying that this was not a top priority for the Administration right now, to go after weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. How much is it important for your own personal credibility and the credibility of the United States to find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe there are weapons of mass destruction and we presented last week some evidence of one such program. The Pentagon gave a briefing last week that showed a mobile laboratory on wheels with all the equipment inside that matches the kind of equipment I spoke about on the 5th of February. We see no other use for this van and the equipment inside of that van to develop biological weapons. But we want to make absolutely sure, so we are studying it. And so we will slowly uncover all of their programs. A great deal of documentation has been found. And as Ambassador Boucher said last week, the first priority right now is to stabilize the country, restore a sense of security throughout the country, and make sure the people are being taken care of, start to reconstruct the infrastructure of the country. We have had some preliminary exploitation teams in Iraq, and now a more sophisticated unit with a great deal of expertise is coming in to search out all of the locations that we have information about.

QUESTION: So, a last question. Your military presence in the region is sending negative vibes here. So how long do you think your presence is going to be endured or tolerated by people in the region?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think people in the region should know by now that the United States does not come looking for trouble. We only go to those nations who have welcome us. We don’t invade nations that are friends of ours. We try to have good relations with all of our friends, and very often there is a military component to that relationship. As Secretary Rumsfeld said recently, we are drawing down our troop presence in the Gulf area significantly. Not because our friends have said go home, but because the mission that those troops were performing has been finished. We have defeated the Iraqi army. And so those planes can go home, those ships can go home and when it is time for our soldiers to go home they will go home.

QUESTION: When? How soon?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, who knows? Do you want me to say right now when there is still not secure? We will go when the job is done. We will not leave before the job is done. But people should not be fearful of the American military presence in the Gulf area. What have we done in the Gulf, what have we done in the Muslim world in the last ten or twelve years? We restored Kuwait to its rightful ruler after it had been invaded by another Muslim country, Iraq under Saddam Hussein. We helped the Albanians in Kosovo when they were being suppressed. So we helped Muslims, we helped Muslim Albanians in Kosovo. In Afghanistan, we freed the Afghan people from the dictatorial regime that was sponsoring terrorist activity and now we are helping Afghanistan develop its own government. And now we have taken out a regime, Saddam Hussein’s regime, which has attacked its neighbors and terrorized its own people. And when that job is done we will go home. We have not created a fifty-first state anywhere in the world. We are not looking for colonies. We have never been a colonial power, we inherited some colonies over the years, and what did we do? We tried to give them back to their independence and freedom as quickly as possible. The only territories we now have as part of the United States are territories that wish to remain territories of the United States. We are not oppressing anyone. We don’t use our army for occupation. We use our army for friendship, we use our army to fight for liberty when necessary and then when our troops are no longer needed overseas for a particular purpose, we are more than pleased to bring them home.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, we thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, my pleasure.

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