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Remarks with Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini After Their Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
C Street Entrance
Washington, DC
September 4, 2003

Secretary Colin Powell with Italian Foreign Minister Frattini SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. I have just had a good conversation with my colleague from Italy, Franco Frattini, the Italian Foreign Minister. We took note of the very strong U.S.-Italian bilateral relationship that exists so that we could spend most of our time on European Union-U.S. relations.

As you know, Italy is the presidency of the European Union at this time, and we had a good discussion about the draft resolution that the United States has put forward to our Security Council colleagues. There will be a meeting tomorrow in Italy of European Union Foreign Ministers, and I gave Minister Frattini our thoughts on the resolution and what we are trying to accomplish, and hopefully the discussions they will have tomorrow will further the process along.

I focused on the fact that we are anxious to see a political plan and horizon put forward by the Iraqi people themselves through their Governing Council, and that we are anxious to see the creation of a multinational force that other nations can contribute to, in addition to those that are already there.

There are a lot of other elements in the draft resolution that talk about an expanded role for the United Nations, but beyond the United Nations, other international organizations, especially the European Union that I think has a very key role to play.

We also talked about the situation in Iran and we talked about a number of other U.S.-EU issues, but I think I will stop there and ask my colleague if he wishes to say a word and thank him for making this very quick trip over so he can get back in time for his meetings tomorrow.

FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI: (through interpreter) I would like to thank very much my colleague and friend, Secretary of State Colin Powell for his hospitality. As Secretary Powell said, our main topic of discussion was Iraq. I appreciated very much the commitment shown by the U.S. Administration and by the Secretary of State to define a new text for a new resolution to give a stronger mandate to the United Nations.

I believe that a very thorough exam and approval, I hope, of this new resolution will represent -- and I know it will represent -- a very important moment for us Europeans to find again a cohesion among us.

I will put this in the agenda of the next meeting in Italy with the 25 foreign affairs ministers of the European Union to discuss this topic and give priority to the reconstruction of Iraq, to a stronger mandate to United Nations, and to the availability on the part of Europe to participate in this process of reconstruction.

Among the other topics discussed, of course, there is a great priority for the Middle East situation, and our common concern that we share that we have to try to resume as soon as possible the implementation of the roadmap that has no alternatives to reach the aim desired.

As you know, the European Presidency has set forward a priority to discuss and to examine the situation of Hamas. We have to find and speak clearly and define clearly to the international community that we have to -- all this violence and terrorist acts have to be fought and halted. And to give you an example, we have to cut the financial flow, the source of financing, of Hamas, because, as you very well know, if Hamas provides an alternative source of financing, this will weaken the Palestinian Authority and it goes contrary to our interests. We have to support and help the Palestinian Authority and Prime Minister Abbas.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I don't know if you had a chance to see the German-French statement on the U.S. proposal on Iraq. The dynamic they don't like, it isn't fast enough, is the immediate reading of it. You took a step, but not as fast in turning over to the Iraqis as those two European countries would want.

Do you have any impressions of their reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not really. I have just gotten a first report of what President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder said. We will study it. We are in the process of discussing a resolution with all of the Security Council members, and I would be delighted to receive their constructive input and take it from there.

I don't sense from their statement that they said what exactly they are looking for or who they would turn it over to if we were turning it over right away.

What we thought was the best approach to take was to ask the Iraqis to come up with a plan as to how they would like to see a transition, through elections, through the creation of democratic institutions, and to the holding of free elections. Once that plan is in, with their timetable, as opposed to a timetable imposed upon them either by the Coalition Provisional Authority or by other members of the Security Council, let's see what the Iraqis think they are capable of doing, and with what support from the international community. And that seems to me what we ought to do, and let's wait and see what they want to do, and that is what this resolution provides for.

I think the resolution is a drafted in a way that deals with the concerns that leaders such as President Chirac and Chancellor Schroeder have raised in the past, and if they have suggestions, we would be more than happy to listen to their suggestions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you say --

SECRETARY POWELL: Matt.

QUESTION: There is a report this morning that suggests that you and the Joint Chiefs basically conspired to push a new UN resolution through the White House over objections from the civilian leaders at the Pentagon. Can you elaborate on that report at all?

SECRETARY POWELL: I read that story in The Washington Post where, allegedly, the Chiefs and I were conspiring to get around the system and to press the President. The story can't be characterized as inaccurate because it is absolute fiction, total fiction.

As I went through the story and heard about these phone calls and meetings that I was having with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or with General Abizaid, it is all fiction. It didn't happen. There is no such collusion. And there was no need for any such collusion. The idea of a resolution has been something that I have been talking about, with the President's approval, and after discussing it in great detail not only with the President but with all of the members of the National Security team. We have been floating the idea of a resolution for many, many weeks. And my conversations on the resolution have included Secretary Rumsfeld, my fellow Cabinet officer, and Dr. Rice and other members of the National Security team. The Joint Chiefs of Staff are always represented there along with Secretary Rumsfeld, and that is the way we do business.

The President has always been looking toward the next step with respect to international efforts to support the reconstruction of Iraq, and in recent days we decided to move forward with a resolution that we have presented now to our colleagues in the Security Council. It was done with full coordination of the members of the National Security team. The President has been involved every step of the way. He and I discussed it at Crawford at the beginning of August. We had discussed it at the end of July.

And so there is absolutely no substance to this mischievous, fictional story about Colin Powell and the Joint Chiefs of Staff colluding in some way. We didn't do it, and it wasn't necessary. We didn't need to put this pressure on the President. The President had authorized me from the very beginning to move in this direction.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Thank you. To which extent you will allow the United Nation to take part into the political process in Iraq?

And for Minister Frattini, I'd like to ask, there was a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Berlusconi. Did Mr. Putin say to Mr. Berlusconi that he agrees to go ahead with this kind of resolution? Were they informed about this?

SECRETARY POWELL: As you will see from the resolution, there are a number of operative paragraphs where the UN is invited and asked and directed to do more to help the Iraqi Governing Council put in place an electoral system, so that they can hold elections, to make available all of the organizations of the UN that have expertise in creating institutions of democracy, to participate with the Coalition Provisional Authority and the Iraqi Governing Council in coming forward with a plan and a timetable. That will be something we would want the Secretary General's representative to do.

So you will see throughout the resolution invitations, direction, and other ways of inserting the UN in the development of a new Iraqi government, democratically elected, that will assume sovereignty once again for Iraq and for its people. We want to do this as fast as possible.

President Bush, Prime Minister Blair, the other leaders of the coalition, Mr. Berlusconi -- everyone has said it is our goal to make this transition as speedy as we can, so that Iraq once again has its own leaders, its own people, responsible for its destiny. That is our goal, but we've go to do it right, we've got to do it well. We've got to make sure we leave something better than we found.

FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI: (through interpreter) I answer to you about the meeting between the President Putin and Prime Minister Berlusconi. Certainly, they have had discussions about the need which was shared and felt to find a new resolution of United Nations that would enable the Iraqis to participate to their -- and able to govern their political future. And Putin, as you know, clearly said that the possibility that (inaudible) of the U.S. command, as far as security is concerned, is an obstacle that is not impossible to overcome.

QUESTION: Foreign Minister Frattini, Italy was very supportive of the U.S. in the war. What is Italy's reaction to the resolution? And as President of the European Union, having heard what France and Germany are already indicating, do you see your role as trying to unite the EU behind this resolution, or simply taking stock of the different views?

FOREIGN MINISTER FRATTINI: (through interpreter) We Europeans, we have a very strong need to find again a strong cohesion within Europe regarding this very delicate theme of Iraq that, as you know, has deeply divided Europe in the past; for instance, division between countries like Italy, which has participated fully to the coalition of the willing, and other countries that have decided not to do so.

We, at this moment, at play, at stake, is the future of the people of Iraq. That is why we think that every effort has to be made. No effort should be spared to find a new resolution that would enable the Iraqi people to manage their future.

I think this is the right way, and I will certainly put this in the agenda of the summit of the ministers of foreign affairs, and I will encourage them to find a common position, to find -- to reach a solution.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

(The Secretary escorts the Minister to his car.)

QUESTION: Can you tell us why the Administration now seems to be saying the cost to rebuild Iraq is going to be so many billions more than the Administration had said earlier?


Released on September 4, 2003

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