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Interview on the Sean Hannity Show

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
July 2, 2003

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how are you? It's Sean Hannity. Welcome to the program. Glad you could be with us.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm fine, Sean. Thanks for having me on.

QUESTION: Hey, listen. We love having you on, and we're -- it's a real honor for me. I've got to tell you, it's -- you have been involved in some real outstanding work, especially in Afghanistan and Iraq, and you really deserve our applause, and we appreciate all the efforts that you've put to --

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. I better come back on tomorrow. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I'm getting to the tough questions in a second. (Laughter.)

You know, let me start with one thing in the news of the day. The administration decided to send this fast team of U.S. forces to Liberia.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the President is considering all of the options that are available to him. He is very concerned about the situation in Liberia, believes that Charles Taylor should leave and should leave right away, worried about the humanitarian conditions there, which are deteriorating, and we are reviewing all of our options. I spoke again with the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, but the President has not made any decisions yet.

QUESTION: Yeah, well, you know, I've been very critical on this program, for example, during the Carter administration, I think we failed to intervene in Cambodia. We had a million people slaughtered under Pol Pot. Under the Clinton administration we failed to take steps to stop the wholesale murder of a million Rwandans. And I really congratulate you and Secretary Rumsfeld and the President for being willing to take action.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are very sensitive. We don't ignore any of these areas when they come along, and we're looking now to see what ECOWAS, you know, the West African group, is ready to do, what forces they are prepared to put in, and the President is examining his options. But it's premature to say that he has made a decision and an announcement is forthcoming in the next day or so.

QUESTION: Let me -- let's jump right into the Mideast situation, where you've been spending an enormous amount of your time and energy. And, you know, I recall that right after Oslo I, when Israel agreed to give the Palestinian Authority some independent control over Gaza and the West Bank and certain police powers in exchange for stopping Palestinian terrorists from attacking Israel, there was a lot of optimism then; then we had Oslo I, Oslo II, the Mitchell Commission, Camp David with Clinton, Barak and Arafat.

What makes you think that despite initial but precarious progress that this roadmap for peace is going to be any different from the rest?

SECRETARY POWELL: There are a couple of elements that are now different. One, we've got a new Palestinian leader that we're working with. Chairman Arafat was the one who was involved in all of those deals you just mentioned, and he, frankly, couldn't deliver. And we asked for new Palestinian leadership. The President did that in his speech last summer. And we now have Prime Minister Abbas, and we're very impressed with him, impressed with the cabinet he's put together -- the finance minister, security minister.

And we also believe that both sides recognize that they can't keep going the way they've been going. The violence and the terror, and the response to violence and terror, is not getting anyone anywhere. It's not getting the Palestinians closer to their dream of a state, and we're destroying the economy of both the Palestinian people and of the Israelis. So I think both sides realize it's time to try again, and this time let's do it with the full support of the United States.

President Bush is deeply involved in this. And, you know, you don't get any guarantees when you start working a problem in the Middle East. But I'm very, very pleased at the developments of the last few weeks and I'm pleased at that scene that I saw yesterday of Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon --

QUESTION: Yeah.

SECRETARY POWELL: -- two tough cookies standing out in front, essentially saying we've got to end the armed Intifadah. We must find a political solution. That's rather new. And, you know, you can't give up hope.

And what's the alternative, Sean, just to let people continue to kill themselves?

QUESTION: No.

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we have got to try to make this roadmap work because I don't see a better alternative.

QUESTION: Secretary of State Colin Powell is with us on our newsmaker line.

Mr. Secretary, when I look at the Bush Doctrine, which I support 1,000 percent, those that support terrorists, aid them, abet them in any way possible, they are similarly our enemies. When we look at groups like Hamas, Islamic Jihad, Hezbollah, they're terrorist groups. And perhaps I'm not as optimistic as you are.

Do we have to win the war on these terror groups first, before there can ultimately be a peace?

In other words, is there any discussion about aligning yourself with Israel to defeat these groups that have been killing women and children in discothèques, and pizza parlors, and on buses and et cetera?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are aligning ourselves with both, the Palestinian Authority and with Israel, to make sure the world understands that these are terrorist organizations. And we have made it clear to the Palestinian side that a ceasefire isn't enough. A ceasefire means that they retain their arms, they retain their capability. It may be a first step, but we are expecting the Palestinians to do more to remove the capability for terror that currently exists in these organizations.

For a long time, we would say, and people would say, well, you know, Hamas may have this terrorist wing to it, but it also has a wing that does good humanitarian work, and therefore we shouldn't condemn the whole organization.

But we do condemn the whole organization. You can't separate them out. And if Hamas wants to be an organization that serves the people, it serves the people best by getting rid of its terror component. And Prime Minister Abbas knows this has to be done, and certainly Prime Minister Sharon knows it has to be done and President Bush knows it has to be done.

And I hope that now that Gaza is open, Bethlehem is open, the Palestinian people can see that Prime Minister Abbas is delivering for them. So why continue to support Hamas and terrorist organizations when they're not delivering anything for us?

QUESTION: Look, I hope you're right, and I hope this 90-day ceasefire continues. And I hope it's not used as an opportunity to re-up in terms of the arms department, which has been used in years past.

We know, for example, Iran and Syria, that they provide financial, military, logistical support for these terror groups. How do we stop those two countries, both of which harbor terrorists in violation of the Bush doctrine, from continuing those activities if we are not prepared to topple those regimes in some way?

SECRETARY POWELL: We think there are ways to deal with Syria and Iran that don't require military action. We're working with the international community. I've been to Syria after the war, after the recent war, and I said to the Syrian leadership, to the President, President Bashar Assad, "You need to see what happened in Iraq. There is a changed circumstance there. You have lost one of your best trading partners who was used to be giving you a lot of oil for reduced prices. And we're about to start the Middle East peace process. You can either join in the changes that are taking place in the region or you can get left behind and never have a better relationship with the United States."

They took some small steps with respect to restricting the activities of some of these organizations that are housed in Damascus, but they haven't done enough. We're going to keep the pressure on them.

In Iran, we're increasing the pressure with respect to their support of terrorist activities. We finally got the international community's attention on their programs to develop nuclear weapons, and we're encouraging the people of Iran, who are now marching in the streets in demonstrating for a better life for themselves. So not every problem lends itself immediately to a military solution.

QUESTION: Sure.

SECRETARY POWELL: And, frankly, there is a limit to what one can do, and you have to have a basis to conduct military action, not just because somebody decides it's a good idea one day. So I think the President has a full box of tools -- diplomatic, political, economic and military and intelligence and law enforcement -- and we're using them all to go after terrorism.

QUESTION: What can we do to help in the collapse of the regime? For example, in Iran, we've been watching these recent protests going on there. Is there anything the United States can do?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, the best thing we can do right now is not get in the middle of this family fight too deeply. We can express our support for young people who want to have a better life. Remember that the President of Iran is freely elected. President Khatami was elected by his people, not in an American kind of election, but an election that essentially tapped into the desires of the people.

And I think it's best for us to see if this movement that is underway, with people marching and expressing their views, is enough to put pressure on the political part of the Iranian Government, President Khatami, and then the religious part under Ayatollah Khomeini, to see whether this causes them to realize that they're going down a loser trail that does not take them to a better life. We're not going to be intimidated by their nuclear weapons programs, and they're going to continue to be isolated from joining in a world that is prepared to work with them if they continue to support terrorist activities.

QUESTION: You and the President have been criticized because, supposedly, weapons of mass destruction have not been found in Iraq. I, personally, take issues with that, that they have been found. As for the quantity and variety of the weapons that are supposed to be there, the UN, the Clinton Administration, congressional Democrats, the French -- everybody -- had concluded and said that these weapons existed. So they were either moved, hidden or destroyed, or all three, prior to the war. And, frankly, I don't understand why more people don't get that.

SECRETARY POWELL: Sean, the weapons did exist, they do exist. The programs did exist and the programs do exist. And when I made my presentation on the 5th of February to the United Nations, I can assure you that it was a well-documented presentation with the entire intelligence community standing behind it.

Moreover, nobody should have been surprised about what I said because when they voted for the UN resolution last fall, all 15 members of the Security Council voting voted to condemn a country that had those weapons. So everybody agreed they had the weapons, and the Clinton Administration had the same position. The intelligence agencies in so many of these countries know that they exist, and there were all these resolutions over a period of years. So this was the combined judgment of the international community, not just the United States and the Bush Administration.

QUESTION: Sure.

SECRETARY POWELL: And if they didn't have them, he could have come clean. Take the mobile vans that we've been talking about, the biological vans. I can assure you, Sean, that when I presented those vans to the world on the 5th of February and described them, all I could put up were pictures or cartoons that we made of them. And later, we actually found them and showed them to the world.

If those cartoons I put up weren't real and those vans were, say, making hydrogen gas for weather balloons, I can assure you the Iraqis would have pulled those hydrogen vans out the next day for the purpose of blowing away my presentation. They didn't because they couldn't, because they were hidden. We had to find them after the war.

QUESTION: I thought that was a great moment, by the way, for you, and I thought you laid out a terrific case. And I think, as you say, it still exists, and we're just beginning to find them and I think it will take some time.

Last night on Fox on Hannity & Colmes -- I know you were probably too busy to watch -- but we were showing all day on the Fox News Channel this battle over the -- what -- Sea of Japan with North Korea and one of our reconnaissance planes. You have the news today that North Korea is threatening to abandon their '53 treaty that ended the Korean war, and warned that it will take merciless or retaliatory measures in response to any "economic blockade," obviously ratcheting up the rhetoric in this situation, and saying they're pursing weapons of mass destruction.

A very difficult thing for the State Department to deal with. What's your plan?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're hard at work on it, and we have succeeded over the last six months, seven months, in bringing the entire international community, especially the regional part of the international community -- South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, Australia, and all the neighbors of North Korea -- to condemn their efforts.

I was at a conference in Asia last week in Cambodia, where every country, all 21 countries that were there, looked at the North Korean representative and said, "We will not have in our region, this part of the world, a nuclearized Korean Peninsula." And so that's got to stop and it's got to be done in a multilateral forum.

Now, that's strong diplomatic pressure. The North Koreans make claims, they make threats. They are masters of rhetorical excess. And what must be surprising them right now is that the United States is not going to blink and suddenly start accommodating their demands because they make these claims. They are sitting on an asset that is declining in value, and that's this program; and the sooner they get rid of this program, the sooner we'll all be able to help them feed a starving population and help them with an economy that is about destroyed.

QUESTION: Did we back -- because this was not the first time they had this rhetorical excess, as you call it. They used the same thing in '93, and it resulted in an agreement in 1994, where the administration at the time abandoned the tradition of nine prior administrations, and not only did they transfer technology with these light water nuclear reactors, but they also gave them the money and the fuel to run them.

Was that a bad deal, and have the Koreans almost been conditioned that this is how they go about extorting money from the United States?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, my predecessors who made that deal did succeed in bottling up the Yongbyon reactor for a period of roughly 8 years, and I have to give them credit for that. What they didn't know was that the North Koreans were pursuing another technology, so they were double-crossing them at the time they were making the deal.

And secondly, the problem with the deal was that even though you bottled it up, you didn't remove it. So there was always the capacity to restart it, which is what they have done.

QUESTION: Sure.

SECRETARY POWELL: But nevertheless, they did keep nuclear weapons from being produced for a period of eight years.

What we have made clear to the North Koreans is that this is a different administration. We will deal with you differently. If you want to do a deal that removes this capability permanently and with no possibility of it growing back in another form, then let's talk. But we will not reward you for your bad behavior, and don't expect to receive some benefit from your bad behavior.

QUESTION: All right, Mr. Secretary, last final question. You know, here you are with all these challenges, and the world has been reconfigured, especially since 9/11, and difficulties really in just about every place around the world, and you're involved in this. Are you glad you're doing this? Are you having fun? Does it make you more reluctant in terms of considering a possible run for presidency yourself one day?

SECRETARY POWELL: Ahh, you were doing fine until then, Sean. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Well, I've got to sneak in one little political question. Come on.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, well, let me answer it this way. Yes there are challenges in many parts of the world. In the Middle East and in Iraq and watching Syria and Iran and North Korea. But there are so many good things going on in the world right now as a result of President Bush's foreign policy.

QUESTION: Absolutely.

SECRETARY POWELL: We've got the best relationship with China that we've had in many, many years -- I'd say at least 20 years. Our relations with Russia are fine, improving and back on track after Iraq. We have good relations with our European friends, even though there was enormous disappointment with France and Germany. But, you know, there are ups and downs in any partnership, in any alliance.

The President is going to Africa next week to demonstrate his commitment to that continent. He is putting big money after HIV/AIDS. He's putting big money on development of countries that are in desperate need of development. And in our own hemisphere, we're hard at work. We spent time all this week, every day this week, on the Free Trade Area of the Americas.

So we're pushing a positive agenda, and it's that positive agenda that makes this job rewarding. And I'm proud to serve the American people in this capacity and only in this capacity.

QUESTION: Well, honestly, I've got to tell you, on behalf of the country, we're very appreciative. You've had a very difficult job. And this has been a terrific wartime administration, and we owe you all a debt of gratitude. And I mean that sincerely. We want to wish you a Happy Fourth and it's been an honor to speak with you, and thank you for taking time out of your very busy schedule. We appreciate it.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thanks, Sean. Happy Fourth to you, and call back again soon.

QUESTION: Oh, we will. Thank you.


Released on July 2, 2003

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