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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

Roundtable With Regional Syndicates

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
May 27, 2003

(2:03 p.m. EDT)

QUESTION: The Middle East trip, a couple of questions: One, how important is this trip, in terms of Abu Mazen and his role as Prime Minister, and how will that interact, intersect or not with Yasser Arafat?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I think it's important role. And we have a new Prime Minister, the first Prime Minister of Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian people. He is coming out of the territories to meet with fellow heads of government from the United States, from other Arab nations. And if it all comes together, this is all being worked, as Ari said this morning, also with Prime Minister Sharon again. I hope he will have met again with Prime Minister Sharon in the next day or so, and then once again with President Bush in attendance.

So what we are seeing is a new force in the Palestinian Authority, a new leader of the Palestinian people, who is acting in the capacity of a leader, and is being received by fellow heads of government. I think it is significant, it is important, especially the meetings that he will be having with President Bush. President Bush's vision of last June 24th asked for Palestinian people to put forth a responsible leadership. And we see we are now seeing that in the presence of Prime Minister Abbas, in the presence of Finance Minister Fayyad, in the presence of Mohammed Dahlan, and my colleague, Foreign Minister Nabeel Shaath.

So we are seeing this new leadership coming forward and we're pleased. Mr. Arafat, he remains President; he remains the elected President. We understand the position that he holds in the Palestinian community, and he carries the hopes and aspirations of the Palestinian people. That can only be given to you by your people, not by anyone outside.

But we have made it clear that we didn't believe he was an effective leader any longer, he was not an interlocutor for peace, and he has not used his position well. So we welcome this opportunity to work with Prime Minister Abbas.

QUESTION: Given the new leadership, the Palestinians have expressed some concern about Israel's acceptance of the roadmap. You have given Israel some assurances that the Palestinians' fear might become an obstacle or get in the way of progress with the roadmap -- the assurances basically.

SECRETARY POWELL: Assurances, okay.

QUESTION: What you have said is that you are willing -- what you have said is you are willing to listen to concerns. They have taken that to another end saying that this might present problems, that the U.S. might deviate from the roadmap to get Israel's support.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, people have been pressing us to deviate from the roadmap since we started drafting the roadmap, and we froze the roadmap here in this department on the 28th of December, when the members of the Quartet joined me and we presented -- we didn't deliver the roadmap, but we said at that time we were finished with our work on it. And we have made it clear in a sense that the roadmap is not being modified from the version that we finalized on the 28th of December; but that we can't keep people from having comments about it or reservations about it, if they choose to have reservations about it, and it has now been accepted by both sides.

The Israeli acceptance is a little more couched, if I may use that word, because they say steps of the roadmap, but we have acceptance which allows the two sides to get together. Now that they have started to talk to one another, they can express their concerns about the roadmap to each other. And as we get into the roadmap, the early steps in the first phase of the roadmap are not really disputable. There isn't any major disagreement of what people have to do.

As you get started and as you head down the road laid out by the roadmap, issues become more difficult. And you start to deal with questions of right of return, you start to deal with the settlements issue, you start to deal with the future status of Jerusalem, the elements of the transitional arrangement, a government with provisional aspects to it. And as you get toward the final settlement, then there will be a lot more discussion that will have to take place to resolve these difficult issues.

What we wanted to do was to get started, and that's what we have been able to do with the Israeli Cabinet approval of the Prime Minister's statement over the weekend. We are now started. There are many obstacles along the way, there are many curves, there are many hills, there are many valleys, but there is now a road with a roadmap that people can see and we have got to get started.

So I do not view the Israeli expression of concern, and the Israeli presentation of comments, at this point, as an obstacle to the Israelis because they have agreed to start down the road.

QUESTION: Can I switch just for once second to Mexico?


QUESTION: Well, Houston, Mexico.

SECRETARY POWELL: How refreshing. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: We'll take a little break from the Middle East.

SECRETARY POWELL: Be still my heart.

QUESTION: Anyway, Mexican President Vincente Fox, this week said that he was going to press the President in France on immigration reform saying -- particularly, keying into this incident in Texas, where these 18 people were killed in one of the worst alien incidents, and believes that we should get over all of the rift with Iraq and move on -- move on with this agenda.

Do you see them meeting in Evian, in trying to work out these issues?

SECRETARY POWELL: Evian is going to be a very tight schedule, as you know, particularly, since the President is going to have to leave early to go to Sharm el-Sheikh. So I don't know whether a bilateral will be scheduled or not with all of the leaders who are there, particularly those who are not members of the G-8. But Prime Mini -- President Fox and President Bush really don't need Evian as a way to communicate and talk to one another.

QUESTION: They don't need?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, they talk, they talk frequently, and I am in regular touch with Foreign Secretary Derbez. But if they do get a chance to talk over dinner or in a tête-à-tête, that's fine. I'm sure that the President would welcome the opportunity to talk to President Fox. We have not lost sight of the vision that the two Presidents laid out when they first met in Oaxaca* in February, I guess it was, the first month of the administration.

We do want to move forward on all of these immigration issues. And one of the ones of greatest concern to both sides, and the concern expressed by President Fox is shared by President Bush, and we don't want to see things happen such as has happened out in the desert where people desperate to get in this country pay these criminals to transport them illegally across the border and put them at such risk.

We want people to be safe as they try to find legitimate ways to come into our country. We ran into some difficulties, principally, 9/11 -- 9/11 slowed down all of our efforts, with respect to facilitating transit across the border, and we found out we had to do a better job of securing our borders and securing our people. But as the two presidents have said to each other and I have said to the Foreign Secretary, we want to move forward with an immigration policy, and also how to deal with the Mexicans already here in the United States and making a positive contribution to our economy, and doing a lot for themselves and doing a lot for the American people.

So we want to work on this, but securing our borders was a principal task we had after 9/11. And, legislatively, some of the solutions that are needed are extremely difficult to get. And we have got to do a lot of work with our Congress on regularization, on workers permits, on increasing the numbers of permits, on 245(i) and all of the other esoterica of immigration. So we haven't lost the vision, but it's going to take us a lot more time and a lot more effort.

We are looking at some easy ones to see if there are some easier ones to do, and we can get started on that. And I am working with Foreign Secretary Derbez on that. So I hope the two presidents do have a chance to speak in Evian. I just don't know whether the amount of time that the President will be there will allow many bilateral meetings.

QUESTION: Well, it sounds like Fox is getting impatient from the feeling that the pressure is on him and at home, domestically, to do something, and these incidents make it worse. What are the easier measures that you may be looking at?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, 245(i) would have been a very easy one. We couldn't get it. We couldn't get the authority we needed from the Congress. And there were some other ones having to do with accelerating some programs that are in play, with respect to scientific visas, but they have proven to be very difficult to get enacted legislatively because of concerns in Congress about security and homeland security.

And so it's, frankly, been unfortunate that we haven't been able to move as quickly as we all would have liked to have moved. And the President has assured President Fox on a number of occasions that we haven't lost sight of what we want to do, but it has proven hard.

And I understand President Fox and his desire to move more quickly, not only just as a political matter, but as a matter of treating this precious population of Mexican citizens in the right way, so that they can come to our country legally and be received and have an opportunity to earn a living and take money back to Mexico and take skills back to Mexico. They want to go back to their home. We would like to give them the wherewithal to go back to their home, make it easy to go back and forth, so that they can have a family in Mexico, and, perhaps their employment in the United States.

But we have not been able to make as much progress as we would have liked to because of 9/11, because of the legislative difficulty. And these are extremely complex and difficult issues with a lot of equities involved and a lot of political interests involved. I say political interests in a good sense not a bad sense. People are concerned and interested in how we move forward on immigration policy. And it's been that way for many, many years, or else we wouldn't have inherited the difficulties we now have.

So we would like to be more forthcoming with President Fox. But because of our secure border requirement and some of the legislative difficulties associated with this, we cannot -- we are unable to move as quickly as President Fox would have liked.

QUESTION: Well, you heard in his interview he did say, "Well, terrorists haven't been coming across the Mexican borders. These are poor people who are dying."

SECRETARY POWELL: We have not had a Mexican terrorist bombing, it's true. I mean, you can't find one. They come across our country in search, not of terrorism or terrorist acts to perform, but in search of an economic opportunity. And we want to work with the Mexican Government to regularize this, both the movement across the border, and deal with the population that's already here and create a set of circumstances where, ultimately, the Mexican economy will be able to absorb its own workers, and then those people will not have to come to the United States for economic opportunity because we're creating economic opportunity in Mexico.

NAFTA has helped, to some extent; but while NAFTA helps in one place, it hurts in another place, agriculture, for example. And so you have to let all of these things oscillate out over time as the Mexican economy adjusts to the impact of NAFTA, just like our economy is adjusting to the impact of NAFTA.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I know we'll get back to the Middle East, but if I can follow up on Evian. Do you see the Evian Summit as an opportunity to heal the rifts in the Alliance that came from the Iraq war? How important is it in that regard?

And also, there has been a lot of quoting in European Press supposedly the U.S. policy now is to forgive Russia, punish France and ignore Germany.

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, it's a great line the journalists came up with, and it's been repeated quite a bit. Each one of these countries is a partner of the United States, and two of them are our allies, and the third one is almost in an alliance with us, as part of the NATO-Russia Council, "NATO at 20," it's often called. And we deal with each -- each one of them as independent entities.

President Bush sent me to see all three -- to go to all three countries, in recent days. And I was in Russia for two days, France for two days and Berlin for a day. I wasn't able to meet with President Chirac, but I did meet with Chancellor Schroeder and President Putin, and we want to move forward. We want to get behind the unpleasantness of the Iraq conflict, at least the fact that we had such a severe disagreement with those three countries, and my trip to those three countries was for the purpose of moving us forward.

But what it wasn't for the purpose of saying there was no unpleasantness; there was unpleasantness. There was a huge disagreement over Iraq, and we are still dealing with that disagreement even after we move on. We have moved on by getting, for example, Resolution 1483 passed with a unanimous vote.

If you count the Syrians -- we are a little late getting here -- we would have voted "yes" if we were here -- call it unanimous, it was unanimous with those who were there. So we're moving on, and we are making the case, "Let's now think about the Iraqi people and not the disagreement of the past." But we just can't say it didn't happen, it did happen.

And I continue to have conversations with all of my Foreign Minister colleagues, Ivanov, de Villepin, and Joschka Fischer about what does this say about the future? Do we still have some problems we have got to work out, and some rough edges we have to sand down?

I get a little nervous when four of you go off to Brussels on the 29th of April, and create some kind of new defense headquarters in this entity. What does that say about NATO? What does it say about ESDP? And so we have got to work our way through this. They are annoyed when we say that there will be consequences because of this situation. They say, "Well, let's not (inaudible)," but they're the ones who threaten consequences against the smaller Eastern European nations that were aligned with us.

And the consequences they threatened were rather explicit, you know, "You're rude, you shouldn't be. How dare you take the position that you have not been told to take by France and Germany? And this may affect your accession into the EU."

Now that's consequences, and so we just can't say that it's all behind us. We have to work our way through this and make sure we have a good understanding of what our various views are and what our positions are as we move forward.

Somebody asked me in Paris the other day, "Well, do you think there is going to be a multilateral world ." I said, "I don't really use terms like that because they are not sufficiently descriptive of the complex political environment we're in." I am not into this shorthanded complex relationship – what a lovely term -- and I have been around so long, I have seen all of these terms come and I have seen them go.

I have seen a brave new world, all sorts of things, and NATO is going away, and we don't need NATO anymore, and Europe and the United States are splitting. And, somehow, we have managed to always keep right on going in a great alliance, NATO, which I am an unabashed admirer, believer, and started my career and operational career in NATO. And the U.S.-EU relationship is going to be fine. It's going to get more complex with 25 EU members and 26 NATO members, all looking for consensus as a way of making a decision.

So ahead is an era of allowing a diplomacy of all of the shifting coalitions on different issues, as the issues come along. With that many nations and you are trying to seek consensus that may be hard to achieve. So the values that pull us together are still there -- democracy, market economics, trying to help people in need. That's not going anywhere.

But will there be shifting coalitions from time-to-time? Will there be disagreements from time-to-time? Yes, don't paper them over, deal with them, and we're dealing with the disagreements now.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) is Evian -- because it's the first time the President meets with these people?

SECRETARY POWELL: Evian is an opportunity for them all to meet with one another. President Chirac is the host, and I'm sure that he and President Bush will have an opportunity to talk to one another. And, yes, to some extent, Evian is a way to start to look more to the future, and perhaps start to put some additional (inaudible). (Laughter.)

QUESTION: The Australian press today is quoting their Foreign Minister as saying that he briefed you yesterday on his efforts -- his efforts to broker some kind of dialogue or deal with Iran on the harboring of terrorists.

They quote him as telling you that they have indeed arrested somewhere around nine Al-Qaida members, and I am wondering if you can talk about the Australian effort. He talked about a possible option being trading members of the MEK, who the Iranians are interested in getting a hold of, for the Al-Qaida members.

So I am wondering if you could talk about that. And he also quoted you as saying that there is pressure on Iran. I am wondering if you can talk about explicitly what kind of pressure is on Iran, and also whether or not Saif Al Adel is among these nine or so Al-Qaida members who were arrested.

SECRETARY POWELL: I talked to Foreign Minister Downer last evening. We had a good conversation. He briefed me on his recent conversations with the Iranians. I told him that we continue to have concerns, with respect to their support of terrorist activities to include what they might be doing with Al-Qaida.

We know they have arrested some, but there are others that we believe are there. And they should do everything they can to arrest all Al-Qaida -- and within our custody or turn them over somewhere or do something to make sure that they are not undertaking terrorist activity.

And we also have expressed our concern over the years to everyone, and especially the Iranians, about their support of Hezbollah, and here they are on our list of countries that have sponsored terrorism. Now, they have done nothing to suggest they are ready to come off that list. We also talked to the Foreign Minister about Iranian nuclear development. We have spoken to -- we have spoken about it a great deal in recent months.

And, as I said in Moscow, after my conversation with President Putin and Mr. Ivanov two weeks ago, I think there is a mutuality of concern -- if I can put it this way -- that we have now with Russia over Iranian developments, and we are both -- we are working the Russians in a cooperative spirit to make sure that nothing has happened which would enhance Iranian ability to achieve nuclear weapons capability on how to deal with Al-Qaida.

There are a number of ideas that -- Al-Qaida anyway -- there are a number of ideas that are kicking around, but we have our own ways of speaking directly to the Iranians. We have channels which we converse with the Iranians, and they know our position with respect to the presence of Al-Qaida. And that's -- that's all there is.

But, notwithstanding all the -- all of the articles about Iran in recent days, our policy has not changed. And you can't find anything in any one of those articles that suggest a change in policy, other than speculation about what this person in that department might think, or that person in another department might think, or what a dove thinks or what a hawk thinks.

But what you can't find in any of those articles is anything authoritative by the United States Government on an official level that says their policy hasn't changed.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. When you say that they have arrested some, but there are others you believe that you want to arrest --

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know the names. I don't have the names in memory. So I can't tell -- if one denies who he said it was or who you say it was. I just don't know.

QUESTION: When you talk about the policy not changing, I guess that the cornerstone of that policy is that any change in Iran must be brought about by the Iranian people themselves. But did that not -- but that doesn't seem to discount measures or steps that the United States might be able to take that it's not taking now to encourage and support the reform movement in Iran.

What kind of steps might be taken? What kind of steps are you contemplating? And could those steps include some kind of more aggressive --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, you are just trying to get me to confirm a story that isn't true; that somehow we are busy plotting all kinds of military or other sorts of actions. And what we have said -- I think the President's spokesman said it yesterday -- I am not sure -- or Richard said yesterday or today -- was, essentially, that we believe that the transformation of Iran to the kind of country Iran could be is in the hands of the Iranian people.

Now, we hope that the Iranian people, an exceptionally youthful population, who will make it clear to their leaders over time that the manner in which they are being led by, both their political and secular and religious leaders is not helping the Iranian economy, is not moving the country in the right direction, and anything we can do to convey a message to the Iranian people that says you are absolutely right and you should pressure your leader, we have that as a statement of our policy.

We have said this on more than one occasion that we believe transformation should be made by the Iranian people, and that the Iranian people -- we will speak over the heads of their leaders to the Iranian people to let them know that we agree with them.

A PARTICIPANT: We have got maybe five more minutes.

SECRETARY POWELL: Did you want to follow up?

QUESTION: Yeah. I think you were playing a bit of connect the dots earlier. When you and other people in the administration talk about "in the hands of the Iranian people," or a similar syntax, in terms of, you know, "in the hands of the Iraqi people," "in the hands of the Palestinian people." And with the case of Palestinians, you had a peaceful transformation or the probable peaceful transformation in Iraq, you've got a (inaudible). So I think there is a question of --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think Iraq is quite different. I mean, we just didn't sit around and say, "It's in the hands of the Iraqi people." We took it to the UN to do something about it or we will. That is quite different. Our intentions were rather clear that Saddam Hussein had to get rid of his weapons of mass destruction. And if the UN wasn't ready to act on that, we would with the coalition.

I don't think you have heard us say that, with respect to -- and let's list them -- Syria, Iran, North Korea, Libya. You simply have people speculating about it. And there are lots of different views in Washington within the administration; from this department there are different points of view.

But, in terms of what the American Government's position, the Bush Administration position is, it is unchanged from what it's been for some period of time. And I think that's what you heard from Richard, from me now, from me yesterday out in front of the building and from the President's spokesman.

QUESTION: Is that position under review?

SECRETARY POWELL: Everything is always under review. But everybody is looking to connect the dots to sort of keep up with the stories of the last four days, and the policy that we have been following is the same policy that we are going to be following in the future, immediate future.

You can't predict the future forever, but the point is there has been no change in policy. The fact that we might spin up one of the policy plates by making a point of focusing Al-Qaida is not necessarily -- isn't a change of policy. We are just highlighting an aspect of the policy, and we have made it clear all along.

And it isn't new that we had been telling the Iranians since the beginning of the conflict in Iraq that you don't want to -- since last year with Afghanistan -- you don't want to harbor Al-Qaida terrorists. They are a threat to the world. And the Iranians have been saying, "We won't because we have got no love lost with Al-Qaida."

And so when we suddenly highlighted Al-Qaida again now, that shouldn't be seen as a change of policy. We have been on the Iranians about this issue since "Enduring Freedom" began.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on the subject of Iran and nuclear weapons, (inaudible) enriching uranium -- plants enriching uranium at previously undisclosed sites -- technically, it would still be in IAEA compliance if ultimately it admits (inaudible) in fact, it could be within weeks of having this material, and still be in compliance. Do you think that the IAEA and the Nonproliferation Treaty, perhaps, needs to be beefed up or given some new teeth?

SECRETARY POWELL: I always -- I believe that I would go forward into the new century where proliferation is such a concern, that we should seriously look at giving the IAEA all resources and asking the IAEA -- encouraging the IAEA to see how they are applying those resources. There may be some facilities in the IAEA world that don't need the same kind of resources supplied to them, as might have been the case during periods of the Cold War.

So are they making the most efficient use of the resources, and should they have more resources?

I think they should have more, and they should be constantly looking at how they apply those resources. In the case of Iran, IAEA is now seized with the issue, and is working very hard to find out everything that it needs to know about the Iranian programs. And we stand ready to assist in any way we can.

I think more and more people realize, in light of recent disclosures of the kind you made reference to, that the United States concerns about the Iranian program may not have been misplaced or overwrought concerns, but are now worth a serious look by everybody to include Russia. And I have had very open and candid conversations with the Russians about it.

QUESTION: Are you confident that, if necessary, the United States would get the Security Council approval to take whatever action is necessary if Iran were to continue to develop uranium enriched nuclear capability?

SECRETARY POWELL: If there is one thing I have learned over the last eight months is to not -- not to handicap UN resolutions before its time. It depends on what is the resolution, what's the cause for which I am getting a resolution, what is the resolution. And I would have to know all of those things before I could even suggest whether we'd be successful or not, or whether we'd need one or not. So it's a little too hypothetical for me to lead in.

A PARTICIPANT: We are going to have to wrap it up, guys.

QUESTION: Do you expect to see Russia take some harder steps?

SECRETARY POWELL: I know they share our concern, and I think they are anxious to see what the IAEA says. And, sure, our concern is I think the best formulation I can give you on that, because a year or so ago they wouldn't have quite shared our concern. I think the Russians are reacting quite responsibly.

QUESTION: Do you plan to sit down with President Chirac or further meet with Mr. Chirac?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am quite sure he will because he is going to be host of the G-8. So I am not sure for how long or at what point. But it's not a very large group and they are kind of in the same room, so then we'll see one another and have a chance to interact. He may have a meeting with Mr. Chirac because he is the host, and I don't know whether Ari announced that or not in the schedule this morning.

QUESTION: I have one quick question. It may seem a little trivial, but can you tell us what city you have picked to host the summit next year?

SECRETARY POWELL: We haven't picked one yet.

QUESTION: But don't you have to announce it at the end of the (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are still looking.

QUESTION: So, perhaps, this isn't guaranteed?

SECRETARY POWELL: I was thinking of Staten Island myself. (Laughter.) We are still looking. But I don't -- no, I wouldn't rule out any place yet. Yeah, you are right. We are supposed to announce it, but I don't think we are that far along yet.

We are also looking at the whole G-7, G-8 process, which has really changed quite a bit since it started back in 1975. And exactly what we want, how the presidency would look like next year, a lot of time and effort and money goes into these meetings.

QUESTION: Well, isn't security also a major issue?

SECRETARY POWELL: Security is major component of it, and that's what you have to look at. I don't know how much the French are spending at Evian, but it's a fortune, and the same thing at Kannaskis last year, or wherever we do it next year. Security is probably the driving factor as to where you hold such a meeting.

Okay. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you.

* …first met in Guanajuato, near Oaxaca, in February,…

Released on May 30, 2003

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