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Interview on Telemundo with Pablo Gato

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
October 30, 2003

2003/1105

(11:50 EST)

MR. GATO: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. Thank you very much. A few questions about Iraq, before, please. You said in the past that if the UN or the Red Cross would be pulling out of Iraq, it would be a victory for terrorists. Is this a victory for terrorists?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, if they are going to totally pull out, yes. It means that they have, they have yielded to terrorist action, but I'm also confident that as our military forces continue their work and as Iraqi police forces and paramilitary forces are strengthened as they assist in taking control over the situation, these organizations will be back: the UN and the ICRC.

At the same time, there are many other organizations that have remained. They understand the risk, but they are staying because they know that the Iraqi people need help.

MR. GATO: Does the U.S. need better intelligence in Iraq, Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL: We all need better intelligence. I mean, we're working hard. It is an enemy that we're still defining. It consists of old members of the regime who are not fighting the U.S. alone -- they're fighting a better future for the people of Iraq. They want to bring the old way back. Well, the old way isn't coming back. We won't allow it, but more importantly, the Iraqi people don't want to go back to that.

And so these old remnants of the regime will be dealt with. And there are some terrorists who have come into the country to try to take advantage of this situation. But we will not let them terrorize us. We will not let them terrorize the Iraqi people.

So those that have felt it necessary to pull out for the moment: the UN and the ICRC, I hope that they will see that conditions improve in the not too distant future that will allow them to come back and do their work.

They want to come back. They want to do their work. And we have to work hard, working with the Iraqis, to create conditions of security so that they will feel safe enough to come do it.

MR. GATO: Why the situation has become so violent, Secretary?

SECRETARY POWELL: It's become violence because there are violent people there who realize that unless they act violently, we are liable to be completely successful in putting in place a democratic form of government and restoring the economy, and rebuilding the infrastructure, and making sure that no regime like the regime we got rid of is ever going to come back. They don't want that. They want the old days. They are not fighting us so that we will leave and they can create a democracy for the Iraqi people. They are fighting us and fighting the Iraqi people so they can return to positions of power and dominate the country and terrorize the country again. And that's not going to happen.

It's a difficult time. We are in a conflict. It's a conflict I'm confident we'll win.

MR. GATO: Mr. Secretary, going to Latin America, President Chavez from Venezuela is accusing the U.S. of plotting to overthrow him. How is this?

SECRETARY POWELL: Why would I waste my time plotting to overthrow him or answering this question. Everybody knows the United States is not plotting to overthrow President Chavez or any other leader in our hemisphere.

This is just old, old propaganda, and it's absurd.

MR. GATO: Do you think he will finally allow the referendum to recall --

SECRETARY POWELL: He should. I mean, it is an agreement that was entered into that said, "Let's have a referendum." And I hope that the referendum goes forward. It is a constitutional way of dealing with this crisis. And I hope that charges, crazy charges, wild charges, irresponsible charges about the U.S. and the CIA are not used as an excuse to keep moving forward in the direction they must move forward to have this referendum.

MR. GATO: Secretary, if there is not an immigration accord with Mexico by next year, do you think that Mexican-American voters could punish the Administration?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think so. I think the Mexican-American voters understand that the President is deeply committed to immigration reform. It's a commitment he made upon entering office. He and President Fox have talked about it many times.

9/11 made it more difficult for us to get the kind of reforms that we both might like to see because of the need that we have to guard our borders and to make sure we knew who was coming into our country, and who's still here, and who may have left. And I hope that once we are satisfied that we have done the best job we can there, we can move more aggressively with respect to immigration reform.

I'll be meeting with my Mexican colleagues in the middle of November on this. Foreign Minister Derbez will be coming up with a strong delegation. We'll have a strong delegation. I believe there are some things we can do in immigration that don't require legislation during an election year. And we're anxious to move forward as fast and as aggressively as we can. But there are constraints. I don't want to over promise. But immigration reform has not left the President's agenda.

MR. GATO: Mr. Derbez, precisely, had some strong comments regarding some comments made by Roger Noriega, where he said that sometimes the Mexican Government used the relations with the United States to play games. Is that your opinion?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I have seen what Assistant Secretary Noriega said, and that was not the thrust of his comments. He was making a passing reference to prior years where there might have been political games being played, as the article says it. But when you read his entire speech in context, Roger Noriega was saying that we admire the democratic transition that Mexico has gone through in recent years and we're proud of our relationship with Mexico. It's a strong one.

I have a strong relationship with Foreign Secretary Derbez. And the President and President Fox have a good relationship. They met recently in New York at UNGA. They have spoken to each other on the phone. They saw each other in Thailand, and I know they're looking forward to opportunities to meet with each other early next year.

MR. GATO: Mr. Secretary, do you have any reason to believe that Cuba has any kind of weapons of mass destruction?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I don't know that they do. I do know, though, that they have, over the years, had certain programs that could be used for that purpose, but we monitor this carefully and we do not want to see the introduction of any sort of weapons of this kind into our hemisphere. And so we monitor what the Cubans are doing, but if you talk about a specific weapon, you know, a weapon, no.

I know they have programs that could lead to that, but a specific weapon, either biological, chemical, or nuclear, I am not making any such accusation.

MR. GATO: How would you assess, Secretary, the results of the Colombian referendum, and how would that affect the peace process in that country?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's -- you know, what happened in the referendum was a setback to President Uribe, but we are very, very pleased with what President Uribe has been doing, the commitment he has made to deal with terrorism and to deal with narcotrafficking. And it has put a great deal of pressure on his government, but this is a man of enormous, enormous personal strength -- strength of character.

He knows what has to be done. He knows that he is doing the right thing and we are supporting him. And I'm confident that the United States Congress through our Plan Columbia initiatives will continue to support him.

MR. GATO: In a private conversation, what would you say to Mr. Chavez, with all that's going on in his country?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you know, we belong to the group called, "The Friends of Venezuela," and I have had conversations with my Venezuelan counterpart. And what I say to him is, "Listen to the people. The people wish to have their views expressed. There was quite a bit of debate earlier this year, and there were disturbances in the street. Those disturbances are over, but there's an opposition there. And you have entered into an agreement for a referendum. Now, stick with that agreement. It is constitutional, it is democratic; and let the voice of the people be heard through this referendum."

MR. GATO: Do you think that -- coming back to Iraq -- is it possible that some weapons of mass destruction could be hidden in Syria, for example, or Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know. It's always possible, but I don't have evidence of that. We are constantly looking for evidence of where the weapons are, where they may have gone to.

MR. GATO: Any more information regarding Usama bin Laden and his whereabouts?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. I don't know where Usama bin Laden is, whether he is alive or dead. There are suspicions and rumors that he is somewhere in the difficult region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, but I, I really don't know where he is.

MR. GATO: Mr. Secretary, one last question. Some people in Puerto Rico would like to see some kind of delegation going to Latin American Summits and international meetings. Would you favor that or not?

SECRETARY POWELL: Some Puerto Ricans going to them?

MR. GATO: Yes, like a delegation -- like a representative delegation.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there can only be one delegation representing the United States. I'm not sure what particular summit or meeting they had in mind or what, what the basis of their comment or concern is. But when you talk about international meetings or summit meetings that are attended by governments, then the United States represents the interest of all of the citizens of the United States.

MR. GATO: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.

MR. GATO: Thank you very much.



Released on October 30, 2003

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