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Interview on Germany's ARD with Tom Buhrow

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
September 11, 2003

MR. BUHROW: Mr. Secretary, in Geneva on Saturday you'll talk, among other things, about a new German-French-Russian-sponsored counterproposal for a UN resolution calling for a clear and fast timetable for the transition of power.

Is that something where common ground could be found?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I haven't seen a combined German-French-Russian resolution. I've heard of some German ideas, some French ideas, as well as some Russian ideas. And we welcome ideas.

We will find in Geneva that we have a common goal, a common purpose -- and that is to give sovereignty back to the Iraqi people as fast as possible. But we have to do it in a responsible way. We have to create a government. We've started to do that with the Governing Council, with the new cabinet that has been formed. The foreign minister of the new Governing Council will be in Geneva, and I hope he'll have a chance to meet my colleagues. So you see? We all agree on that.

The questions we'll be debating is how should authority be divided up? And I don't think there's a need to have a fight about this. Clearly the UN has a vital role to play. We've said that from the very beginning. And we should discuss and describe in the resolution what that role is.

MR. BUHROW: A leading role?

SECRETARY POWELL: I said vital. I don't know what leading means. I don't know what all of these other characterizations mean.

But let's get down to practical aspects of this. I'm a soldier, not as much of a diplomat as I am of a soldier. But the fact of the matter is there is no government right now to turn sovereignty over to.

If the UN took over tomorrow, and Ambassador Bremer and all of his people went home, what would the UN do, and with whom? Working with what government?

The fact of the matter is that we have an organization in place, the CPA, the Coalition Provisional Authority. We put it in place because we had to assume governmental responsibilities at the end of the conflict.

We, in a period of four months, have restored electricity. We are restoring sewage capability. We are doing a lot to rebuild the country. It's still a difficult security situation, and we're working on that as well. And so we want to work with the UN, but we can't simply cede all responsibility and authority to the UN. The UN isn't ready to handle it. The UN has not asked for it.

We need to get out of some of the rhetorical arguments we're having. One I hear is that the United States believes in the logic of occupation. Nonsense. Every European should know that the United States of America has always believed in the logic of liberation. Liberation leads to sovereignty. That's what we did with Iraq and our liberation of Iraq will lead to sovereignty. But it has to be done in a careful way, as Iraqis are able to receive that sovereignty and act with responsible actions and responsible behavior with that sovereignty.

MR. BUHROW: Now, at least for the transition, there's a need for additional troops, international troops, if possible. Let's say there would be a new UN resolution that everybody could agree on.

What would you specifically expect of the German side? Chancellor Schroeder has said he will not provide troops. He will train Iraqi security forces. Is that good enough for you, beefing up Afghanistan?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's up to each nation to make its own decision as to how it might participate in the work that would be mandated by an expanded resolution. If the German Government saw fit to act in the way that you described, fine.

I'm not expecting any German troops. Chancellor Schroeder has made that clear from the very beginning. Germany is contributing in many other ways to our common efforts around the world, especially in Afghanistan -- doing a terrific job -- and in other parts of the world, as well. So Germany is playing its role.

We fully understand the German Government's position with respect to what we did in Iraq, but I also know that the German Government now wants to see a reconstructed Iraq living in peace with its neighbors, with a democratic government. And I know that the German Government is as pleased as we are that this terrible dictator, Saddam Hussein, is gone; and no more mass graves -- and that we can all rally around.

So I look forward to working with the German Government. They won't be represented in Geneva, but Joschka Fischer and I, my colleague Joschka Fischer and I talk several times a week.

MR. BUHROW: Now, the perception in Europe is they were uneasy about the war from the beginning, they're waiting for weapons of mass destruction to turn up, and there was talk of the U.S. Government -- UN is becoming irrelevant, et cetera.

Is this drive for a new UN resolution partially an admission that things didn't go as planned and maybe some critics weren't so far off?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think so. We have never declared the UN irrelevant. If we thought the UN was irrelevant, President Bush would not have taken this problem to the UN last September.

He took it to the UN because it was the UN's problem. These were UN resolutions that were being violated. And we went into the conflict with the support of many, many European nations. Let's remember how many European nations were supportive of what we did in Iraq. And these were leaders who stepped forward. Even though public opinion was against them, they nevertheless, saw the righteousness of this cause. And they are still there.

I mean, there are some 29 nations that have contributed troops to our efforts and to the current force in Iraq. And so we, now, don't want to re-argue that issue. What we want to do now is come together to find a way to move forward and rebuild Iraq for the Iraqi people. That's the purpose of this resolution.

It'll be the third resolution in a series, since the war, that moves in a consistent direction. 1483 authorized forces. 1500 welcomed the new Governing Council. And we hope this broader resolution, if we get agreement on it, will move us further and give a mandate, a broader political mandate, authorize a multinational force, and I hope, and am confident that with goodwill on the part of everybody, we can find language that would show that the UN has to play a vital role.

But we cannot have language that suggests that the Coalition Provisional Authority is out of business or steps aside. We are the ones who have legal responsibility for the country at the moment, and the CPA is the way we discharge that legal responsibility.

MR. BUHROW: I hear some signals for compromise. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.


Released on September 12, 2003

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