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Interview With Italian TV Canale 5

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Rome, Italy
June 2, 2003

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, let's start with the post war in Iraq. After the strong tensions between the United States and some allies like France, Germany and Russia too, how would you describe the situation now while the G-8 Summit is going on in Evian?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the situation is improving. I think that people now realize that the disagreements we had with respect to Iraq have to be put behind us. The important issue now is how to help the Iraqi people rebuild their country after thirty years of dictatorial destruction on the part of Saddam Hussein. And keep in mind that we have very excellent relations with most of our friends in Europe: with Italy, with Spain, with Great Britain, with a number of the former republics of the Soviet Union that were solidly in the camp of taking action in Iraq. So there are still some outstanding issues with France and Germany, but France and Germany have been the allies of the United States for many many years, and we will get through this disagreement and get back to a more normal relationship as we befits friends and allies.

QUESTION: Yes, yesterday President Bush and President Chirac shook hands and smiled to each other, but there are still some tensions right now.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there is still a little bit of tension because of the disagreements over Iraq, but you saw they were all together, they did shake hands, they did smile at one another and I'm sure they had good conversations. We must remember that that which keeps us together as an alliance is much, much stronger than the disagreements that come along from time to time.

This was a serious disagreement. We felt strongly, along with our Italian colleagues and so many others in Europe, that we had to act in the presence of this kind of Iraqi disregard for the United Nations' resolutions. Others thought that we should not act at this time, France, Germany and a couple others, including Russia. But that's now behind us, let's come together and help the Iraqi people build a better life for themselves and a better country for themselves.

QUESTION: Would you still speak of "old and new Europe" -- I know that the definition is not yours….

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it's not mine, I never use it because I don't find it to be a helpful distinction. Europe is Europe. It is not one country, it is a continent with many countries, with many different points of view. All the countries in Europe are democracies and every one of these democracies has political opinions within that democracy. And so when one looks at Europe, one has to see a continent with many different points of view. It focuses its attention, it focuses its points of view to its organizations such as NATO and such as the European Union. A great deal of my time is spent working with NATO and the European Union to see if we can at least bring these different points of view closer together.

But to suggest that you will always have unanimity in Europe is not the right way to look at the problem. Europe very often does not have unanimity among itself, much less with the United States, so it shouldn't be a shock to people that there is sometimes disagreement among democratic nations within Europe, or between Europe and North America. This is not unusual, this is the normal part of diplomacy, this is the thing one would expect when you have so many free democratic nations. All have the option of deciding their own policies, and the challenge for these diplomats and my other colleagues in Europe as diplomats is to argue out these issues and debate these points of views. This is not a sign of weakness, it's a sign of strength that we debate and argue with each other and that we come together and try to achieve a consensus.

QUESTION: And how would you describe the relationship between the United States and Italy right now?

SECRETARY POWELL: It frankly could not be better. Prime Minister Berlusconi and President Bush get along very well on the personal level. But more than that, the values that Italy and the Italian people believe in very much mirror the values that America and the American people believe in, so we have a very strong relationship with Italy at all levels - at the government level, at the state level, as well as the relationship that I enjoy with my Italian colleague Minister Frattini.

QUESTION: Italy will be President of the European Union for the next six months. What do you expect from its Presidency?

SECRETARY POWELL: I know what we will get. We will get strong leadership, we will get a Presidency of the European Union that will support us in our efforts to bring peace in the Middle East. As you know, the European Union is one of the members of the quartet that has come together to help with the Middle East peace process, and I'm looking forward to working with Prime Minister Berlusconi and with Foreign Minister Frattini to continue to move the Middle East peace process along. I'm sure that Italy will play a strong role as the EU President and moving forward on the agenda on counter-terrorism efforts, on non-proliferation efforts. Italy has a very strong record on counter-terrorism and non-proliferation.

Italy has also shown that it cannot just talk about what has to be done, it is willing to commit its troops, forces if necessary, such as it has done in Afghanistan, such as it is prepared to do in Iraq. And so Italy has been a full player, it is not just principles that it espouses, but its willingness to take action when action is appropriate. And I think that kind of leadership of the EU will be very good for the EU, and it will be very good for the EU-North American or Transatlantic relationship.

QUESTION: You are going to meet the Pope this morning, there were deep divisions between Washington and the Vatican over the Iraqi war.

SECRETARY POWELL: There were indeed, and I look forward to seeing His Holiness to discuss where we are now and provide to His Holiness an assessment of the situation in Baghdad and I hope the Holy Father will see that the people of Baghdad are liberated. They still have many problems. They still have a lot of work to do but a dictator is gone; a dictator who has suppressed the people and has kept their hearts locked up so they could not achieve their dreams, their ambitions. These people are now free to achieve their dreams and ambitions. I also wish to speak to the Holy Father about the situation in the Middle East and I will seek His Holiness' guidance as to what he thinks we should be doing.

QUESTION: Let's talk about the Middle East then. There are now two very important summits in Sharm el-Sheikh - you'll be leaving this evening for Sharm el-Sheikh - and also in Aqaba. Do you see a real progress towards peace after the approval of the Road Map from the Palestinian and Israeli side?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think this is a moment of opportunity for peace. Several things have come into play. First, the new Israeli government is now in place and settled. Secondly, we have new leadership in the Palestinian side with the Prime Minister who is committed to peace and who is committed to ending terror. Third, Iraq has been dealt with, and President Bush has eliminated one of the threats to peace in the region and a threat to Israel with his leadership in bringing the coalition together to remove Saddam Hussein.

And the fourth element of course is President Bush's determination to move forward on the roadmap and because of his determination, his leadership, we have both parties committed to the roadmap and in Sharm el-Sheikh tomorrow, I believe the Arab states will show their commitment once again to the process, and then the next day, on Wednesday in Aqaba, we'll have a chance to meet with Prime Minister Sharon and with Prime Minister Abbas. For the first time the two of them will come together in the presence of the American President, and I think that will show to the world that we have a new opportunity to move forward, to use the roadmap as a way to get to the vision that everybody believes in - a vision of two states living side by side in peace - Israel and Palestine.

QUESTION: So you are optimistic?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm optimistic.

QUESTION: Next step in the war on terror - Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, of course not. This is much, much overblown in the media. Iran is a state that we are concerned about. It is a state that has supported terrorism. It is a state that has programs underway that could lead to the development of nuclear weapons. That should be of concern to all of us.

But we believe there are ways to deal with Iran. Iran has a population that clearly is not happy with its political leadership, not happy with its religious leadership, and we believe that there are pressures inside Iran. We will do what we can to talk to the Iranian people, and let them know that they really should be thinking about the 21st century globalized world that is waiting for them when they open themselves up, when they get rid of the support of terrorism, when they eliminate any programs that might develop a nuclear weapon.

But the United States is not looking for wars to go to. This is a popular perception I run into, particularly in Europe. We don't need wars. The United States has never looked for wars, but we have not stepped aside when conflict came our way and we couldn't avoid it. We have not stepped aside when the obligations that we have as Americans said we have to come rescue a people, whether it's coming to Europe twice in the last century during World War I and World War II to rescue Europe, or whether it was to go to Kosovo to rescue Albanians, or to go to Afghanistan to rescue a nation from the Taliban and al-Qaida, or whether it was to go to Kuwait to rescue the Kuwaiti people from an invading Muslim army, the Iraqis.

So, the United States does not seek war, we're not looking for wars. In fact, we always try to find peaceful solutions to diplomatic crises, and that's what most of my time is spent on. But the United States also believes that diplomacy has to be backed by force, and when you have tried diplomacy and it has not solved the problems of concern to the world, a great problem of concern to the world, one should never eliminate the possibility that force might be used. But we use it reluctantly, and we always try to find a peaceful solution. We're not a rogue nation looking for wars. We're a peaceful nation looking for political and diplomatic solutions.

QUESTION: The last, the very last question. Back to Iraq, you didn't find the smoking gun, did you?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are smoking guns all over. Remember, Iraq has weapons of mass destruction. We found them in 1991. The inspectors found them when they went in. We destroyed some of their weapons of mass destruction in 1991. They have weapons of mass destruction, they've had them, they used them against Iran. That is not disputable. They used weapons of mass destruction against their own people. We know that they threw the inspectors out in 1998 rather than let the inspectors find more weapons of mass destruction.

And so, when the United Nations met last year and passed Resolution 1441, it was because every member of the Security Council that voted that day believed that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, and something had to be done about it. We gave Iraq an opportunity to say to the world, no we don't. Here are all of our papers, here is all the documentation, we're opening up everything, come and see that we have nothing. They didn't do that. They hid. They gave a false declaration, they continued to try to keep the inspectors from getting everywhere that the inspectors needed to go.

And we made a case, I made the case to the United Nations just in February as to what we knew, and I showed drawings of a biological laboratory. We found that biological laboratory, now everybody can see it. We're confident as we continue our work with exploitation, as we send in more experts, as we interview more Iraqis, as we translate more of the documents, we will find more evidence of what they have been doing over all these years.

So, this suggestion that there were never any weapons - yes there were. The inspectors found them, we found them, we've seen them. We blew up some, but we always believed that Iraq continued to have these weapons and continued to develop these weapons. And there can be no suggestion that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction. They did and the whole world knew it. And when finally Iraq refused - refused - to account for their weapons, to tell us what happened to anthrax and to botulinum, to tell us what they were doing to come clean and avoid a war -- then we had to use military force and go ahead and remove this regime because this regime did not comply with the will of the international community.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.


Released on June 2, 2003

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