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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 > November

Press Availability with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Benjamin Franklin Room
Washington, DC
November 13, 2003

(12:47 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's been a great pleasure to be able to host my dear friend and colleague, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. Jack is here to consult on the upcoming state visit, and he came early enough to participate in a wonderful event last evening, the Marshall Foundation dinner where I was privileged to be honored, and it gives me a chance to thank Jack again for his kind remarks last evening.

Secretary of State Colin Powell, right, with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw watching, speaks to reporters during a media availability in the State Department building, Thursday, Nov. 13, 2003 in Washington. Straw is in Washington to consult on the upcoming state visit by President Bush to Britain. [AP Photo]So far in our conversations today, we have talked about the situation in Iraq and Iran. We will continue our discussions at lunch. We also spent a little bit of time on the upcoming state visit. The President is very much looking forward to the visit, where we can celebrate once again the strength of our bilateral relationship.

And so, Mr. Foreign Secretary, it is a great pleasure to have you here and I would ask for you to say a word or two and we'll take some questions.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. The honor is mine to be here with you, Colin, and it was also my honor, our honor, to be part of that awards ceremony yesterday, where you were presented with the George C. Marshall honor in recognition of your great service as a soldier and a diplomat. And it was a wonderful evening and it was great to be there.

As Mr. Secretary said, we've got a wide range of issues to discuss. We've been talking about the situation in Iraq. I'd like to repeat the condolences that both Mr. Secretary and I expressed to President Ciampi last night at the awards ceremony in respect of the deaths of the Italian personnel and the outrage at Nasiriya, and also of the eight Iraqis who died in that outrage as well.

The security situation in parts, but not all of Iraq is unsatisfactory, but we are determined to get through this difficult period and to ensure that power and sovereignty is transferred to the Iraqi people as quickly as is possible, but in a way that ensures that the future of that country is safe and prosperous.

As Mr. Secretary said, we also discussed the state visit and we're all looking forward very much to the visit of the President of the United States to the United Kingdom next Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen, and there will be a wide agenda to discuss there.

And in the discussions which I'm sure we're about to have over lunch, there will be a wide range of other subjects on the table. Thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: The only thing I might add is that in our conversation earlier we expressed our appreciation to the Italian Government for their reaffirmation of their commitment to our efforts in Iraq. It shows what a strong partner the Italians have been in this difficult and challenging time.

Questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you comment please, on the suggestions of an accelerated timetable for the transition to self-rule in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, Ambassador Bremer was back earlier this week for consultations with the President and the National Security team. We had good conversations with Jerry. And we are all interested in accelerating the process of putting in place a government for the people of Iraq, reflecting the role of the Iraqi people and representing all the people of Iraq. And it has been our mutual goal, the United Kingdom and the United States and all of our coalition partners, to do this as fast as we can.

And so Ambassador Bremer came back with some ideas that he and the Governing Council had come up with. We discussed those ideas and now he is heading back to Iraq to talk to the Governing Council and other leaders within Iraq about these ideas and how we can take them forward, and in due course, after he's had his consultations, I'm sure we will hear from the Governing Council.

Remember that the Governing Council has a requirement under UN Security Council Resolution 1511 to report to the Council by the 15th of December on how they would plan to go forward, and the consultations we've had this week are all related to helping them meet that deadline.

Andrea.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, actually we've heard a little bit from the Governing Council, not about these ideas that you've been discussing in recent days, but they apparently are rejecting the idea of writing a constitution in coming months and choosing the members of a constitutional drafting committee, saying it would be too divisive. If I could get you to respond to that, sir.

And then for the Foreign Secretary. You were mentioning the upcoming trip of President Bush to your country. What does President Bush need to say to assuage the concerns of the United States' European allies to heal the riffs of recent months? Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: As you noted, there has been concern expressed that the time required to write a constitution, if you are going to go through an election process to determine who should be on that constitutional writing commission, could eat up a great deal of time, more time than we think can be allowed before we start transferring sovereignty back. And so we're trying to work through those concerns and see if there's a way to work through them or to find alternatives that would speed up the process in a way that would be acceptable to all members of the Governing Council and other interested parties in Iraq.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Thank you. Ma'am, on your question to me, I'd just like to make this point. First of all, it's not for me to write President Bush's speech or offer him advice on that, and he doesn't need it.

But, secondly, Iraq did not produce a rift between Europe and the United States. The Iraq debate produced, sadly, divisions within Europe between those who took the view that we did and Italy did and Spain did and getting over half the EU accession states did; and those who took a different view. And that was reflected in the arguments inside the Security Council earlier this year.

But there is, my view, unanimity within Europe and across the Atlantic about what needs to be done for the future, and everybody in the international community has the same common interest in ensuring that these terrorists are defeated, that the coalition is able to help create conditions of security, and that we advance as quickly as is possible to ensure that the Iraqi people are the ones who assume sovereignty and responsibility for their own lives. So that's the position.

The other thing, if I may just offer this piece of advice to President Bush, certainly I've been doing, is to gently to remind European audiences about the critical role that the United States of America played not once, but twice, in securing liberties and freedoms in Europe. We don't forget that.

QUESTION: Mr. Foreign Secretary, could you share with us the particular British approach to this question of accelerating the transfer of power to the Iraqi people?

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Well, yes. Our approach is very similar to that of the United States and, indeed, it's based upon the policy set out in three successive United Nations resolutions. And I've come over here with Sir Jeremy Greenstock, who is the British representative in Baghdad who's been working cooperatively very well alongside Ambassador Bremer, for discussions about how we take things forward, and Sir Jeremy will be going back to Baghdad for further discussions with Ambassador Bremer very shortly.

There's no magic here, neither is there any iron rule. What we all want to do is to secure as quickly as possible a transfer of authority and power and sovereignty to the Iraqi people. But that can only be done if the Iraqis themselves consent to the process. So whilst we have in the coalition an important role to play, as Mr. Secretary has already made clear, itís crucial that the Governing Council and the Iraqi people are the individuals and the groups which take responsibility for any changes that are made in the program, and we all look forward to the publication on or before the 15th of December of the timetable and the, both for elections and the constitutional process, which Resolution 1511 requires of the Governing Council.

SECRETARY POWELL: Time for one more.

Yes, sir.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary and Foreign Secretary Straw, the new approach on Iraq brings the coalition much closer to the view expressed months ago by some of your European allies. Had you adopted this new approach earlier, do you think you would have gained more support worldwide and in Iraq, and gotten additional troop and financial contributions?

SECRETARY POWELL: 1511 was passed unanimously, and 1511 endorsed the approach we are taking. We have always wanted to find ways to accelerate it. Some of the ideas that we were hearing from a number of our European colleagues was, "Turn over sovereignty right away." At one point it was, "Do it within 30 days." And then, "Do it within six weeks," and we resisted that because there was not an entity there that could receive sovereignty or act on any sovereignty it did receive, and it was an unrealistic expectation. It was an unrealistic position, and we said so at the time.

We believe that the plan we had put forward with respect to getting a legitimacy base for a new government is the right way to go about it. And Ambassador Bremer's consultations with the Governing Council and then here in Washington, and now again, with the Governing Council when he goes back, I believe will lead to a plan that will accelerate the process but it will be along the basic, fundamental lines that we have laid out from the beginning; and we were looking to see if there are any modifications to that basic line that might allow the process to move even faster.

Thank you.

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: The only thing I --

SECRETARY POWELL: Jack, I'm sorry. Yeah --

FOREIGN SECRETARY STRAW: Sorry. The only thing I'd add to what the Secretary has said is this, that it shouldn't be forgotten that there are 30 nations, 28 in addition to the United States and the United Kingdom, who are direct troop contributors into Iraq -- Italy, one such country with a large troop contingent, which illustrates the breadth of the international contribution, with troops -- and also that the Madrid donors conference which took place on the 24th of October was far more successful and produced far higher pledges than any of the skeptics suggested. And both of those facts underline the truth that the international community recognizes that whatever the arguments may have been in the past about whether it was appropriate or not to take military action at the time that we did against the tyrant Saddam, everyone has a common interest in defeating the terrorists and in helping the establishment of a democratic and representative government of Iraq for the Iraqi people.

Thank you very much, indeed.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.


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