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Briefing in Geneva

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Palais des Nations
Geneva, Switzerland
September 13, 2003

QUESTION: The French say their proposals are still on the table, that there has been no (inaudible) in that respect.

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn't put any particular proposals on the table to discuss. There was no resolution before us. No paragraphs were discussed. We had a general discussion about our way forward. Our common goal is to transfer authority back to the Iraqi people as quickly as is possible. The question is on what (inaudible) path with which process. And we all had a chance to exchange our views and I go back better informed about the views of my colleagues and now the work will return to New York. And as Minister de Villepin said, I think he was encouraged, and hopefully a consensus can be reached.

QUESTION: Can I just ask what took so long? I mean 2 hours longer than scheduled, that indicates that there was a lot of discussion.

SECRETARY POWELL: There was a lot of discussion and we went back over points several times to make sure that there was a clear understanding. There was a good, open, candid, frank discussion both at lunch and in the plenary session.

QUESTION: Do you get the impression that the French are obstructing, or use any word like that?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, they put forward their ideas, not in an obstructionist manner, and we discussed their ideas and remember this was an opportunity to have candid, relatively private discussions and to continue the work in New York. And I think we leave here with enough information that will give us a basis to continue to work in New York. And also we have to involve the 10 elected members who did not participate in today's discussions.

So we need time to get back to New York, talk to the elected 10, and then begin more intense discussions with the P-5 as well as the elected 10, on language of a resolution that would allow us to move forward.

QUESTION: Did you narrow your differences at all on the question of a timetable for sovereignty on whether the UN would take up lead over the transfer of political authority or are the differences pretty much the same as yesterday?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think there was some narrowing, but I am not going to get into the specifics of the narrowing. There was convergence - as the Secretary General said we were looking for areas of convergence, and I think there was some convergence - but there are still differences and that is what we will be talking about in New York.

QUESTION: How about getting the other countries to contribute more (inaudible). Was there more understanding of how the pots of money will be handled and who will control it and how it will come out?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we didn't really get into that part of the reconstruction effort or the resolution. We really focused on the role of the Governing Council. I spent quite a bit of time describing the Governing Council, how it is created, cabinet ministries that are now working and starting to pick up some speed in their work and how we would be supporting that process, and the process of writing a constitution and leading to elections which gives legitimacy to any government.

We all want to get to the same end point which is the transfer of authority back to the Iraqi people. What we were discussing is the best way to do that and the time lines under which it should be done, and those time lines ultimately have to be agreed upon if not developed in the first place by the Iraqis through their Governing Council. And that is what our resolution provided for in the first draft we put down.

QUESTION: You said the French timetable was unrealistic. Does the United States have a timetable that it is able to discuss or was able to discuss at this meeting that would be more realistic?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, because we asked for the Iraqi Governing Council to develop such a timetable in accordance with the situation as they see it, the process as they have designed it and in coordination with the CPA and the Secretary General's representative.

What I found unrealistic about the French timetable, as I have heard it described and described recently in Le Monde is that it could all happen within a month or a few weeks. And I believe that is unrealistic and we had a fairly candid discussion of that. You have to have a government that is not only there with the doors open, but it has to be functioning and it has to be functioning in a way that the people will have confidence in it. It has to be functioning in a way that the people will respect it. The worst thing one can do is to set them up for failure.

And so I believe that the approach that Ambassador Bremer is taking and his seven-step plan that he has presented to the Iraqi people gives us a way forward. But there was some convergence on the issues that are before us, but there are still some differences and we will take the work back now to New York and have the Perm Reps of all 15 nations discuss it. Thank you.


Released on September 14, 2003

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