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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 with Sabine Christiansen

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Berlin, Germany
May 16, 2003

SABINE CHRISTIANSEN: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for joining us.


QUESTION: This was the first meeting now between the U.S. government and the Chancellor after, I must say, difficult months in the transatlantic relations. How would you describe them today? You said in the press conference that it was open and frank, but not warm and friendly.

SECRETARY POWELL: It was open and frank and it was warm and friendly also. Iíve known Chancellor Schroeder for a number of years, and weíve met on a number of occasions. And so we will always approach these matters in a friendly way. But we cannot hide the fact that we have had a difficult few months with the German government. We had a major disagreement over Iraq. And we should not pretend that we didnít or that everything is back to normal. And it was a candid and direct conversation, as I tried to convey to the Chancellor the concerns that we had. But we finished up this part of the conversation and then moved quickly to how we were before and how we need to come together in the United Nations now to pass the new resolution for the purpose of helping the Iraqi people. This is not a resolution about war. This is not a resolution that tries to fight the battles of the past. It is a new resolution for a new situation. The people of Iraq are now free, they are liberated, they want a better life for themselves. How can the United Nations, all the members of the international community, come together to help? We had a problem with the past, now letís work on this together.

QUESTION: Do you think you have the German vote for that resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I wouldnít speak for the German government, but I will say that I am pleased with how close we have come with respect to the resolution. I am sure there are a few more issues we have to discuss, but both the German government and the United States government want to see this resolution pass. And I think we will be able to find common ground in the very near future.

QUESTION: It wasnít seen, let me express it like that, as a very friendly gesture that while you were talking here to the German government and Mr. Fischer, that nearly at the same time, President Bush met Roland Koch. What do you think that wasówas it just a friendly gesture of gratitude to the pro-American opposition?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, itís not unusual for American officials at the highest levels to be seen and meet with members of opposition parties in our allied nations. I met today with Ms. Merkel and I think nothing out of the ordinary of it. Nor was it a sign of disrespect. It was a sign of us talking to all factions within one of our -- within the governments and within the political population -- of one of our allied friends.

QUESTION: How would you describe, when you return now to Washington, and meet with the President, how would you describe, letís say the ultimate message of your visit here in Germany?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the message of my visit would be that we had a candid discussion about the disagreements of the past; now we are working together to move forward not only with respect to the UN resolution but to many other things that we are doing together.

QUESTION: What does that mean concretely?

SECRETARY POWELL: Concretely means that the German government is anxious to join us in passing, hopefully unanimously, this new resolution to help the Iraqi people and the disagreement of the past is in the past, not forgotten, but nevertheless in the past. Letís move onward. And we also spoke about many other areas of common interest, Middle East peace process, our mutual efforts in Afghanistan, our concerns about Syria and Iran and North Korea, all of the areas you would expect Germany and the United States have an interest in together.

QUESTION: Will the German Chancellor and President Bush have a tete-a-tete at the G-8 Summit?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, they will all be together, the G-8 leaders. There isnít much time for bilateral meetings, but I cannot predict what might happen. But they will certainly all be in the same room, and President Bush and the Chancellor have been together at similar meetings where they have exchanged words. Iím not expecting any fireworks at the G-8. I think it will be a good meeting.

QUESTION: Was that what you just described when I asked for the concrete measurements, was that the concrete gesture that you expect from the Germansí administration or would you say there is something else that can decisively improve the transatlantic relations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wasnít looking for a concrete gesture on this trip. I was looking for an opportunity to discuss with the Chancellor and with my colleague Joschka Fischer how we can work together on the new strategic situation that exists in the region. The Iraqi regime is gone, we need to help the Iraqi people, we have a Middle East peace process that is now reinvigorated with a new Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority and President Bush is engaged within the issue. And so these were things I would expect to discuss with the German government at a high level. So, I didnít come here looking for some kind of gesture to fix the problems of the past. I was coming here strictly to have open, candid discussions with the German government at a high level, and thatís what we had. And so we shouldnít be looking for just a gesture. I have to just keep reminding everyone that I speak to of all the things that do bring us together: 50 years of very successful cooperation as friends and allies. We are totally supportive of one another. There have been disagreements over those 50 years. There have been ups and downs in the relationship, but we have so much in common. Sure there are (inaudible) commitment to democracy, commitment to freedom, our commitment to a Europe, whole, free and in peace, working together in the Balkans and other places so there is a lot that pulls us together.

QUESTION: But, sir, why then are you pulling out your troops?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are not pulling out our troops, what weíre doing is taking a look at our strategic situation and determining where best to have our troops in Europe. Our troops really are stationed in places in Europe that reflect the Cold War stationing plans, in some cases the stationing plans that existed at the end of World War II. When I stepped down as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1993, we had just finished taking out 200,000 troops from Europe, mostly from Germany and bringing it down to about 120,000 or 130,000 troops. And now weíre looking at the force structure in light of the fact that NATO has increased its size, geographic size, so it is not a matter of taking out troops to punish anyone, if thatís the suggestion. We are taking a strategic look at how our forces are distributed around the world, not only in Europe, but in South Korea, as well to see if there is a more rational way to distribute our troops in order to make them ready to respond to the threats of today, not the threats of the Cold War era.

QUESTION: So itís just that.

SECRETARY POWELL: Itís just that. That doesnít mean that there wonít be some movements out of Germany. I expect that there would be a redistribution of troops, but donít see it as something that weíre doing to punish Germany. We werenít punishing Germany when we took 200,000 troops out at the beginning of the last decade. We were doing it because the Russian army had gone away, and there was no Iron Curtain. Germany had unified and so it was rational to do so. And this is a further step in rationalizing our presence in Europe and in other parts of the world.

QUESTION: You just made a great trip, I must say, to the Middle East and visited a lot of countries. Perhaps, back to the UN, for us Europeans the UN is the crucial guarantor of international law and legitimacy in a global world, but according to your draft resolution the UN in Iraq is reduced to delivering bread and bandages.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I think itís quite a bit more than that. The President has said that the UN should play a vital role in reconstruction.

QUESTION: What is that vital role?

SECRETARY POWELL: It means that the Secretary General will be asked to appoint a coordinator, a coordinator who would have a number of roles, dealing with humanitarian issues, but also working with the coalition authority in overseeing funds that will be coming into the Iraqi Central Bank to be administered by the coalition and by the World Bank and IMF. So, the UN will be a part of that process of watching how the money is spent in a transparent way so that everybody can see itís being spent for the Iraqi people. The UN representative, special coordinator whatever we end up calling him -- right now, we believe coordinator is the appropriate role -- will be free to watch the political process unfold and participate in the political process, meet with the different political leaders in Iraq, watch as they put together interim authority, work closely with the coalition. I think this is an important role. The UN has not said, the Secretary General has not said, they want to become the owners of Iraq; they do not want to be the government of Iraq. We have a situation where the occupying power, the United States and its coalition partners, have to be the government for an interim period of time until we can put in place a government of the Iraqi people. We want to do this as fast as we can. And we think the UN can help us in this role. And we think that that is an important role for the UN to play.

QUESTION: Beside the UN what could be the role of NATO?

SECRETARY POWELL: NATO could play a role; it is up to NATO sitting in council to decide that. In my discussions with the North Atlantic Council a few weeks ago, I was pleased that in principle the North Atlantic Council is willing to consider NATO. I think what theyíre waiting for now is to see what the UN resolution looks like. And I think the resolution will invite regional groupings such as NATO to contribute these resources to include peacekeeping troops to the effort. And after the UN resolution is passed, I think NATO will give it more serious consideration as to whether it is to play a role or not.

QUESTION: Peacekeeping doesnít seem to be very easy. We saw last week the return of terrorism, we saw the suicide bombing in Riyadh and we, especially in Europe, are very worried that now terrorism is back in the world. So you started to fight terrorism, also with the war in Iraq, and now itís back.

SECRETARY POWELL: I donít think it ever went away. That was the point of our global war against terror that it is here, that it is going to remain here, and we have to go after it. I think we struck a blow against terrorism and we went into Afghanistan, removed the Taliban and destroyed the Al Qaida presence, even though they are not totally destroyed. There are still elements of Al Qaida in Afghanistan, but we had no illusions that we had torn up the entire infrastructure of Al Qaida terrorism. But we have dealt them some heavy blows. Germany has been especially helpful in the global war against terrorism, arresting people, ripping up networks, working with us on chasing down their finances, exchanging intelligence information and law enforcement information. So terrorism never went away and reappeared, it was always there.

QUESTION: But it came up again.

SECRETARY POWELL: And it will come up again in the future. But I can assure you that Al Qaida will attack: any chance it gets, whether or not there has been an Iraq war or not. Theyíre determined to continue to undertake these criminal, terrorist operations and they march to their own tune, they march to the sound of their own drummer and not just because of Iraq or something else. Al Qaida is that kind of an organization, so before the war we knew Al Qaida was planning and now that the war is over we know that Al Qaida is still planning. And what we have to do is to continue to work hard and not let our guard down. Protect ourselves in every way we can from this kind of terror activity. And thatís why more than ever it is important for us to cooperate fully in all aspects of war on terror, whether itís law enforcement, intelligence exchange, or military actions.

QUESTION: Do you fear the upcoming of Islamic fundamentalism now as you can see in the South; I saw it there last week.

SECRETARY POWELL: One has to be concerned about Islamic fundamentalism, particularly if it takes the form of repression of people and also support for terrorist actions or it starts to convert the states and the places where terrorists can find safe harbor or haven in which to operate. Thatís one of the reasons in my meetings with Syria last week, the Syrian President last week, I made the point that we hope that he, the President of Syria Bashar Assad would see now the necessity of not allowing Damascus to serve as a home for terrorist organizations such as Hamas and the Islamic Jihad who are connected to terrorist organizations in the occupying territories. So we have to fight it wherever it appears, and it has to be a global effort and thatís why the President, President Bush has made it clear from the beginning -- this will be a war that will take many years and it will be fought in many ways on many fronts.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, where is Saddam Hussein? Do you really want to get him?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, Iíd love to get him, but I donít know where he is. I donít know if heís dead, I donít know if he is alive.

SABINE CHRISTIANSEN: Thank you very much.


Released on May 19, 2003

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