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 You are in: Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice > Former Secretaries of State > Former Secretary of State Colin L. Powell > Speeches and Remarks > 2003 > October

Interview by Juan Williams of National Public Radio

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 16, 2003


(10:55 a.m. EDT)

QUESTION: (In progress) -- got a 15-0 vote in favor of the UN resolution. What's your reaction?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, obviously, we are very pleased with this unanimous vote on what is now Resolution 1511. It shows the international community coming together and endorsing the process that we will be following in the weeks and months ahead to restore full sovereignty of Iraq to the Iraqi people, but doing it in a way that is careful, that is deliberate, that builds up institutions, that creates a constitution, and prepares the people of Iraq to elect their own leaders.

And I think the resolution also gives a mandate to the entire international community to do the best they can at the donors conference next week in Madrid to provide financial resources to complement the large sum of money the United States will be putting into this effort to help rebuild Iraq, recreate the infrastructure.

And really, this is a remarkable achievement when you think of the disagreements that we have had over the months to see the Council coming together today, and I think we are on our way to creating a democratic Iraq in a part of the world that does not know this kind of democracy. And so I am very pleased with the outcome.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you expect specific new commitments of peacekeeping troops or, in addition, reconstruction aid to result from the Security Council vote?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to troops, each country who has been considering troops will have to make their own judgment, of course, but every one of them said that they would be helped in making that judgment by the existence of a Security Council resolution. So we provided them that resolution today, and now we will be working with each one to see what they are able to do.

With respect to additional money at the donors conference, yes, this will help a great deal. This will help the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank in coming to their conclusion as to what they are able to provide, and I think it will give encouragement to a number of other nations. Some nations have said that they will still not be making a contribution, and I hope that they will reflect on that over the next week because this really is money that is going to the Iraqi people; it's not going to the United States, it's not going to the coalition; it's going to help the Iraqi people. And I hope that this resolution has sort of swept away and put into the past the disagreements of earlier this year.

QUESTION: But there's no precise measure that you have in terms of troops or money that will result from the vote?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, the vote did not hinge itself to a particular dollar amount or a particular contribution of troops, but it certainly facilitates our work in encouraging nations to contribute either troops or money. We're not expecting a huge influx of troops with this resolution. There are a number of countries who are considering it, and we will now have a better basis to work with them.

QUESTION: Now, you're going to be attending the Iraqi donors conference in Madrid on October 23rd. What kind of assurances can the U.S. give France, Germany and Russia -- the big players in this game -- that their aid will not go to U.S. forces or to U.S. companies?

SECRETARY POWELL: Oh, quite simply, it will be going to Iraqi projects, and obviously the governing authority there now is the Coalition Authority under Ambassador Bremer; but, increasingly, we are standing up cabinet ministries, working with the Governing Council, and the money will flow to reconstruction projects. And the UN will be there to see what's happening. There's a transparent process.

And, of course, as the money is spent, different people, companies from different countries around the world will be bidding on the contracts. And I'm quite sure that there is an opportunity for everybody to participate in the reconstruction effort. Just yesterday, we announced the letting of cellular telephone contracts, and you'll see that they went to foreign companies.

QUESTION: Okay. So the U.S. is clearly paying the overwhelming majority of the costs to rebuild Iraq. Do you have a percentage in mind as you approach the donors conference to what other countries might contribute?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't have a number, and I would be reluctant to put one out, but the big chunk that we are putting in in the near future we hope will be the $20 billion in the supplemental request that is pending before the Congress. And I hope the Congress supports that completely as a grant of $20 billion.

And we are working with the IMF-World Bank, the Japanese, the Gulf states and a number of other states, and many of these states are not giving us their number; they prefer to do it at the donors conference. But I am more encouraged than I was last week that we'll get a pretty good response at the donors conference, and this resolution certainly, certainly helps. And I might also add, it takes away any excuse that someone might have had not to make a contribution.

QUESTION: Do you have any thoughts about whether or not it should be a loan or an outright grant? Would you be opposed to the possibility being put forward by some in Congress that any money for reconstruction should be done on a loan basis only?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we -- with respect to our contribution, we believe it should be a grant. Iraq is burdened with a great deal of debt right now, and we want to get this country up and running. And if we want to be able to restructure that old, bad Saddam Hussein debt, this is not the time to put new debt obligations on the people of Iraq.

They're slowly rebuilding their oil infrastructure. The revenues that will be coming in are really just enough to cover the operating expenses of the new government, and we would not wish to burden that operating flow of money with new debt at this time.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the U.S., as well as Britain, resisted any firm timetables for returning Iraqi sovereignty. Why was the U.S. so adamant on this point, in discussions at the United Nations? Are you worried that the Iraqis may not be able to get their act together?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, it's simply a matter of how can you put a timetable on something like this right now? I mean, it doesn't go by lunar or calendar cycles; it goes by progress on the ground. We would like to turn it over tomorrow. But you have to turn it over to a government that is functioning, that has responsible institutions, that is up and running, that has a constitution. That takes time.

I can assure you, Juan, that nobody wants it turned over more quickly than the President does, and I certainly share the President's position on this. But we don't want to do it in a way that would ensure failure by giving it to a group of individuals or to institutions that are not yet ready to handle the responsibility. And so, we had to make that point clearly to our colleagues on the Security Council.

We had the most intense debates about it, but I'm pleased that finally our position was recognized, and in the resolution the only timetable is one for the Governing Council of Iraqi leaders to come in and tell us what their plan and schedule is going to be, and then we can go from there as opposed to putting down an arbitrary timeline that we had no basis of knowing whether we could meet or not.

You will see throughout the resolution a lot of language that makes it clear we will be transferring authority to Iraqi institutions as quickly as possible, but ultimate authority will remain with Ambassador Bremer and the coalition until there is a government that has been elected and ready to take over. And at that point, as you will also see in the resolution, all authority then goes back to the Iraqi people.

QUESTION: What about this December 15th deadline that you were encouraging the Iraqis to hold to for drafting a constitution?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no. The December 15th date that you see in the resolution is the date that we are asking the Iraqis to come in with their plan.


SECRETARY POWELL: I hope that before we get that plan, they will start work on their constitution. There's nothing that should keep them from going to work on their constitution now. We're just waiting for them to form a constitutional commission. And once they start that work, I hope they'll move quickly. I had speculated that it could be done in, perhaps, six months. But that's really going to be a function of how quickly they get to work and how much difficulty they run into.

QUESTION: What about allowing security concerns in terms of UN presence on the ground? Secretary General Kofi Annan has said he's worried about the security of his forces there. Is that going to be an impediment to getting those other countries to participate?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, there is a security problem, and this restricts what Kofi Annan is able to do, and it also restricts what the NGOs or non-governmental organizations are able to do. But I'm confident that with time the security situation will improve, and as it improves, as Secretary General Annan just said in his comments before the Council, he hopes to send his people back in to get on with their very, very vital work.

Thank you very much, Juan.

QUESTION: One last question, Mr. Secretary. About this man who appeared on 60 Minutes II and challenged your testimony, February 5th, before the United Nations -- he was a former weapons analyst for the State Department. How do you react to the charge that you were hyping evidence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know the gentleman. He resigned from the Department a while back. The presentation I made on the 5th of December was not something I --

QUESTION: Fifth of February.

SECRETARY POWELL: Excuse me -- 5th of February. It's not something I made up out of thin air or wrote here at my desk. It represented the best and considered view of the intelligence community, and it was blessed by the whole intelligence community. And I spent five days out at the CIA going over that material. It wasn't hyped. It wasn't overblown.

I would not do that to the American people, nor would I do that before the Security Council, as a representative of the American people and of the President of the United States. So it was fully blessed by the entire intelligence community, and there will always be an individual, or more than one individual, who has a different view of what the intelligence information indicated.

But we will all know in the course of events and the passage of time, as Mr. Kay, the chief inspector out there now, finishes his work. In his preliminary reports, he has made it clear that all of these programs were being actively sought by Hussein. He never gave up his intention to reconstitute full panoply of weapons of mass destruction, and we are still looking to see whether he had stocks on hand.

But we found enough to make it clear that what he had done in the past, gas people and try to get biological and nuclear weapons remained his goal, and he had the infrastructure in place to do it, and we will pull it all out before we are finished. We've got miles of documents to exploit, hundreds of people to interview, and hundreds of sites yet to be looked at.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, have a good trip.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Juan. Bye-bye.


Released on October 17, 2003

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