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Briefing En Route Geneva

Secretary Colin L. Powell
On board plane
September 12, 2003

SECRETARY POWELL: I might give you just a couple of news items that you may or may not have gotten before we left, but the vote on the Libyan sanctions removal resolution passed thirteen for, zero against, two abstentions, the United States and France, so that one's behind us, and in Vienna, the Iranian resolution before the IAEA Board of Governors also passed. It was, as we say in our congressional circles, a voice vote, so it was unanimous, 34 to nothing, after the Iranians walked out of the room. So that one also is notched and we are pleased with the outcome of both of those.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: No abstentions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: Normally it is referred then to the Security Council. What will happen there remains to be seen.

MR. BOUCHER: This resolution text says that Iran has to do specified things before the end of October and then at that point….

SECRETARY POWELL: There's another action in November, which…nothing is going to happen before the Security Council until the next step, which is in October or November?

MR. BOUCHER: End of October they have to (inaudible), but the next step would be November.

SECRETARY POWELL: Early November.

I've got to tell you a little color story which I think is kind of charming. Yesterday, you know, we had celebrations all over the world and especially all over our country on the second commemoration of the anniversary of 9/11.

But one story that I got from some of our military colleagues, in one of the NATO fleet exercises, a German ship radioed over to an American ship and requested permission to come alongside, on the starboard side of the ship. The American captain didn't know what it was so he slowed down to the appropriate speed and signalled the German frigate to come along, and the frigate came along with the whole crew in full dress uniform, the American flag on the main mast of the German ship, along with the German flag, and the whole crew with their caps off over their hearts. And the crew all started crying, like we are. Very moving. So there is still a lot of that out there.

All right, thanks for being on the trip. It is the beginning of the fall travel season, and Geneva.

QUESTION: Are you ready for questions or do you want to…?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'm just warming up. In Geneva, I am looking forward to having bilateral meetings in the morning with each one of my Permanent Security Council colleagues: Jack Straw, Dominique [de Villepin], Igor [Ivanov], Minister Li. I think I got them all. And Kofi Annan, as well. Mr. Pachachi from the Governing Council is also in Geneva and I'll have an opportunity to speak with him, as well. And then we will go into our meeting.

This is intended to be a quiet consultation among the Perm-5 Foreign Ministers with Kofi Annan and his staff. It will begin with a lunch where we will have some preparatory discussions and then be joined by our delegations, for an afternoon's conversation on the situation in Iraq. And I am sure we will have a discussion on the resolution that the United States has proposed. And I expect that to last through the afternoon.

The resolution, as you know, has been on the street for about a week and a half now. Something like that. And we've gotten some reactions, quite a few reactions, and generally supportive of what we are trying to do. Every nation has questions they want to ask and comments they want to make, but I am pleased with the level of support. The main comment that is emerging that will take the greatest amount of discussion is the rate at which, and the manner in which, full responsibility for Iraq is turned back over to Iraqis, and the exact goal of the United Nations in that process.

As you know our proposal was: let's ask the Iraqi Governing Council to come up with a plan and a timetable based on what they think they are able to do as they grow their government, as they write their constitution, as they start to make their ministries functioning again, and as they staff up and get ready to be a real government again. And provide that timetable after coordinating it with Ambassador Bremer and the CPA, and with the Secretary General's representative in Baghdad, and provide that to the Security Council for the Security Council to review, discuss, make comments and whatever other action the Security Council might find appropriate.

We think that is the sensible way to do it. There are a couple of members of the Council who have a slightly different point of view, or a great different point of view if you prefer to characterize it in that way, that says let's speed up the transfer of governing authority from the CPA to an Iraqi entity, and let's make any design of plans for the political transition and the timetable to be a matter between the UN Special Representative and the Governing Council as it grow into an interim administration. That would not be acceptable to us.

We strongly believe that Ambassador Bremer and his team, as the government for the moment, until full governmental powers can be returned to Iraq, has a responsibility for helping with the development of that plan since he will be helping the Iraqis execute that plan. And frankly, if Ambassador Bremer and his team were not there, if the Coalition Provisional Authority was not there, with all the assets that are brought to the table by the Coalition Provisional Authority, who would be doing that and is the UN really properly staffed to handle the kind of responsibility such a strategy would entail?

And so this is what we will have to discuss. We will not be sitting around editing or wordsmithing and drafting resolutions tomorrow, although I have my team with me: Ambassador Negroponte and Assistant Secretary Holmes and Bill Burns and Sharin Tahir-Kheli from the National Security Council. But that is not the purpose of this exercise. That will be done back in New York after we have a sense of where we are. This is also a case where each member of the Council plays an important role. It is hard to visualize any veto situation. I think what we are looking at is how high a count we can get as we move forward.

We want a resolution that, one, provides a greater, a broader international mandate for the activities that are underway and the activities that are to come, that lead to turning the country back over to Iraqis. With that broader political mandate, diplomatic mandate, hopefully those countries who have not yet made a contribution, but are thinking about a contribution to the multinational force, will be encouraged to do so. The concept of a multinational force is agreed by almost all - I haven't heard any real problem with that from any of the Security Council members. We also hope that this will encourage nations to make a more significant contribution at the Donors' Conference next month, and it will also help the IMF and the World Bank be more forthcoming with respect to their activities with additional authority spelled out in a new United Nations resolution.

I really say that this is kind of evolutionary, because we have been growing to it: 1483, 1500, and now this new broader resolution. And, in fact, there is quite a bit of support for it already, but there are some issues out there that we'll have to discuss. And I look forward to those discussions tomorrow. And, I'll stop there.

QUESTION: You may have seen Foreign Minister de Villepin's comments in Le Monde today. He says that sovereignty should be restored quickly with a provisional government in a month, draft constitution by the end of the year, and elections next Spring. How unrealistic or realistic is that timetable, in your view?

SECRETARY POWELL: Totally unrealistic. It is totally unrealistic. It would be delightful if one could do that, but one can't do that. When you look at the current situation and look at how it is coming along and how it is starting to pick up speed: with a Governing Council, with now Ministers and a Cabinet, a Foreign Minister starting to travel and be received by the Arab League, and he will be in New York at the UN.

Ambassador Bremer, in the last 48 hours, has met with the new Minister of Health, and has started to discuss what hospital reconstruction is needed and asking the Minister, now, to lay out his priorities, so that the money we are asking for from the Congress can be applied against those priorities. That is the sensible way to do this. It is easy to toss out nice theories about sovereignty and occupation and liberation and all of that, but as a practical matter, it can't happen in that time frame.

That essentially is proposing that we stop everything that we are doing, and we have done too much and invested too much to consider any such proposal. I've read Minister de Villepin's speech and I've seen the interviews and I know his views. And we'll be discussing them. And, he knows my views and we've been discussing them all week. I think we've had three conversations on the phone already this week. Interesting but not executable.

Also, as I said on a number of European networks yesterday when I was giving interviews, I understand the difference between occupation and liberation. We have done a lot of liberation in Europe, after other Europeans had occupied parts of Europe. And we restore sovereignty, we don't deny freedom or sovereignty to those who own the land. That was the President's commitment at the very beginning, remains his commitment, but it has to be done in a sensible way, not a rhetorical way.

QUESTION: What do you think is the reason why the French seem so much in a hurry to sideline or remove Mr. Bremer and the occupation, the CPA? And if you can figure out what the reason is, is there any other way of accommodating their desire?

SECRETARY POWELL: Perhaps you might find out the reason by talking directly to them at some point, and tomorrow if the opportunity presents itself. But I think they have a view, the Minister has expressed to me a view, that it is the occupation that is the problem. But you need that liberating force there, for a period of time, to get control of the security situation, which is still a difficult situation. And when you get control of the security situation, give the new army and the new police force time to rise up. Now we are not going to second that force to anyone else.

And to think that somehow you can just say, fine turn the switch off and the other switch on. When you turn that other switch on, there is no electricity in it. No lights will come on. It will not work. The engine will not start. Nothing will happen. I hope to make this point to them again. They have heard it, but they feel quite strongly about their position. And we will work to see if there is not language that can bridge this, but I cannot anticipate us agreeing to any language that would buy into what Minister de Villepin has been saying.

QUESTION: A couple of questions on the Perm-5 dynamics. First of all you said it's not a veto situation. Is that a hope or do you have some assurances? And secondly, do you think the Russians are playing a little bit more of a neutral role, because before the war they were really in a bloc with the French and the Germans?

SECRETARY POWELL: The second part….the Russians have come in with some serious comments, but for the most part they are bridging comments, and I think that we can deal with what we've seen from the Russians. And I would say they are trying to play a helpful role. I think they want to be part of this effort.

Vetoes, I can never predict. But when you look at what we are trying to do, all of us agree that we are working together to help the Iraqi people reach a point where they can assume total responsibility and control of their country again. Nobody disagrees with that. Everybody wants to see that. So that unifies us. And now we are having discussions and some debates over how to achieve that as rapidly as possible. And I just find it difficult to think that that is so challenging a task, and runs against so many serious principles, that it would result in a veto. But I can't predict what a nation might or might not do. We'll just have to play it out as we do with all of these resolutions. I've gone down the resolution road with the initial vote being one for and fourteen against, and I end up with fifteen - zero. And we'll just work our way through this.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you feel that you have enough support that you will have already the minimum nine required? And, secondly, what's the timetable of how you think this is going to unfold realistically? And, finally, where are the Germans in all of this? Last time they ganged up with the French.

SECRETARY POWELL: The vote count is a little hard to predict right now, and I don't want to declare victory by having more than nine votes, but I would be surprised if there weren't at least nine countries that saw the merit of our proposal. Each one of them may have some accommodating language they want dealt with. Even the Spanish, for example, had some suggestions that were important to them, that are easy to accommodate. So, I think we are pretty far up the ladder.

If there was anything that would worry me, it would be a veto, as opposed to getting the requisite number of "yes" votes. I'm getting a little old, Robin, these two-part questions….

QUESTION: The timetable?

SECRETARY POWELL: The timetable….I can't answer that because I have to see the results of our conversations tomorrow, and then I've got to send John [Negroponte] back to New York so that he can work with the other Perm Reps. They'll get their instructions and work on it next week. But I can't really give you an estimate until next week, when I see the results of this and how those results get incorporated into the language.

The Germans had concerns that were similar to the French. Whether they are that aligned with the French right now, I don't know. I've had conversations with Joschka Fisher in the course of the week, and with Dominique. Joschka won't be here, so I'll hear the French position, discuss it with them, and then I'll talk to Joschka after that, to see where he is. But I'm not just working this as a French-German problem. I'm going to be talking to all of them. This is not like a going to war resolution, the kind that we argued about in the spring. This is, I think, quite different. This is one where we all start out trying to accomplish the same thing, a resolution that moves forward the process of helping the Iraqi people, and helping the international community help the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Indians said again earlier today that they will definitely not be sending any forces to Iraq. Do you have any comment on that? Are you disappointed by that?

(crosstalk)

SECRETARY POWELL: Who was the Indian?

QUESTION: I'm not sure. Sorry. I saw it very briefly.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll help you with your question. I heard a report earlier, before leaving, that an Indian military official had said it would be hard for them to send anyone because of their current commitments. I don't know if that was coming from a political level.

We'll just have to wait and see. I think it's going to be a difficult political choice for the Indians to make, but they have kept it on the table. They have considered it all along. We'll just have to wait and see. They have asked for a broader mandate from the UN, so we'll try to deal with that concern of theirs. And then they'll have to make their own national judgement as to whether they are able to send troops or not.

But there are other nations. Turkey would be assisted in their consideration of this by a resolution. So would Bangladesh and Pakistan, among others, as well.

Keeping in mind that there are 30 nations there with us now, four more considering troops. The population of additional nations that might contribute troops is somewhere in the neighborhood of 14. And so that is why we've been saying you might get another 10 or 15 thousand out of this, but a resolution doesn't unleash hordes and hordes of troops.

QUESTION: Thank you. I'm going to talk about the financial side of things. In a magazine interview that just came out, you talked about the fact that some countries should consider that when it comes to donating to the cause here that there are contracts that they could be getting for their own companies as a result. Can you elaborate on that, and explain? I mean, are you actually talking dollars and cents with countries and saying, "If you give x amount of dollars, your companies will get this," or at what level is that? And can you also clear up the difference with the Pentagon over the MEK?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not sure exactly which article you are referring to….
BusinessWeek.…The new one? I didn't think so. I'm seldom that crude.

I think what I may have said, and I'd have to go back and look at the transcript, but what I meant and this is what I think I said was I was being asked about contracting opportunities for other countries. I said there are lots of opportunities out there. In many cases, a large contract goes out, say to one of our companies, but there are many opportunities for sub-contracting. And all of the nations that are interested in sub-contractors can apply. We are going to have an open process for that.

I'm sure that many of the nations that are contributing troops or making financial contributions would hope that they are also able to compete and get a contract, as well. I stayed completely out of the contracting business. AID does that, and they do it in a way that is examined by the GAO and everyone else, and so they have standards that they have to meet. I never interfere in that contracting process.

QUESTION: On the MEK?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm getting old, I can't….why don't you guys….

MR. BOUCHER: Good. This will teach them to only ask one at a time (Laughter). Just keep at it.

SECRETARY POWELL: I'll just start answering one, pretend I never heard the other one, and walk off.

There really isn't a difference. I think what you are reading in the paper in the last couple of days is the way in which the command in Iraq went about implementing the policy and prioritizing all the things they had to do. As you saw in an article, I think, this morning, General Sanchez is confident that everything is under control, and he knows where they are and they are in the process of completing the registration and interviewing all of them. So, there was a little bit of a lag between the time guidance was issued and got to the field. We've been working that out, and Don and I have been talking about it. But it is not a huge crisis between the Pentagon and the State Department.

MR BOUCHER: This is what you said in BusinessWeek.

SECRETARY POWELL: Will the US have to cut foreign companies in on some Iraqi reconstruction contracts? There are going to be enough contracts for any nation that is committed to the effort to get a piece of the action. But getting a piece of the action means you fairly compete and you have a product.

QUESTION: (Inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I see how it could be read like that, but that isn't what I meant.

QUESTION: On the MEK, did you write this letter to Rummy?

SECRETARY POWELL: I communicate with Mr. Rumsfeld in many ways.

QUESTION: But did you communicate directly on the MEK?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wrote him a note, which is about one line long, and I gave him some attachments, that said, "Don, we need to talk about this." Period. That was all. It wasn't a big deal as I saw it.

QUESTION: How often do you do these?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, I do them lots.

MR. BOUCHER: Thank you.


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