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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 > 2004 > February

Remarks With Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds Following Meeting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 17, 2004

(11:35 a.m. EST)

Secretary Powell with Her Excellency Laila Freivalds, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Sweden. SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning. It's a great pleasure to receive and have a good conversation this morning with my new Swedish colleague, Foreign Minister Freivalds. We've met previously, but this is her first time here at the State Department.

We had a good discussion of our bilateral relationship, as well as the situation within the Euro-Atlantic community, and we're very pleased at the way things are developing with respect to U.S.-EU discussions and the expansion of the Euro-Atlantic family in terms of the expansion of NATO, as well as the expansion of the European Union.

We also had a chance to discuss the situation in the Middle East, the Greater Middle East Initiative, and the interest that Sweden has in finding a solution along with us to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

We also talked about Afghanistan, and I am pleased to note that Sweden has expressed a willingness to participate in a Nordic provisional reconstruction team to help the people of Afghanistan to a better and a brighter future.

So, Madame Minister, it's a great pleasure to have you here, and I look forward to many more such meetings.

Would you like to say a word?

FOREIGN MINISTER FREIVALDS: Thank you. Yes, and I appreciate the possibility to meet Colin Powell here in Washington and to discuss the things we are very much involved in, both in the small Sweden and the big United States, and I appreciate the very open-minded and warm discussion we have. And it's not easy problems we have to deal with, but if we do it together then perhaps we will find the solutions.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, Iraq, please. There are reports, which possibly are disturbing to you, that the plan from November is falling apart from within the U.S.-appointed Council. Can you enlighten us on the state of the situation?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think Ambassador Bremer spoke to this well over the weekend, in that we still believe that 30 June is the appropriate time to have a transition to an interim government of the people of Iraq. We are waiting to get a report from Ambassador Brahimi through Secretary General Kofi Annan as to the results of Ambassador Brahami's visit to the region.

The debate goes around the issue of a caucus. Is a caucus still the best way to do it, or can the caucus process be refined or modified in some way, or is there some other procedure that might be used to reflect the will of the Iraqi people as we move forward? And so we're waiting to get the report from the Secretary General before any decisions are made. And I think the Governing Council is also waiting to hear the report of Ambassador Brahimi.

And so we've got an open mind on it, but as Ambassador Bremer says, we are still determined to move forward to transfer sovereignty by the 30th of June.

QUESTION: Well, you said -- you used the word "interim" though. The notion that there would be a full transfer of sovereignty is still something the U.S. doesn't support?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, what we're talking about is an interim government to whom sovereignty will be transferred until such time as you can have a full constitution in place and that you can have a full election, which nobody believes is possible by June. But at some point in the future, whether it's the end of this year or sometime next year -- it remains to be determined -- and so whoever we transfer sovereignty to at the end of June would be an interim arrangement of some kind until you get into a full, ratified constitution, elections, and a government that flows from those elections at a point in the future.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, on Haiti, the opposition says that Aristide needs to leave before there can be free and fair elections there, parliamentary elections. Do you believe that there can be free and fair elections with Aristide still in Haiti?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. He is, right now, the free and fairly elected President of Haiti. And so we have put forward with the United Nations and with CARICOM and the OAS a good plan, the CARICOM plan, that we believe both sides should take to heart and stop the violence on both sides and move forward to find a political solution to this crisis. But we cannot buy into a proposition that says the elected President must be forced out of office by thugs and those who do not respect law and are bringing terrible violence to the Haitian people.

We have a serious humanitarian problem there now. We are sending people from the United States, OAS and other international organizations down to see what we can do about that humanitarian crisis, and we are also working with the OAS and others to see if we cannot get a dialogue going between President Aristide and his government and the opposition forces.

The opposition forces have taken on new dimensions. Some reflect political opposition leaders, but we also have thugs who can't reasonably be called opposition, and we also have some individuals coming back into the country who had formerly been excluded from civil life in Haiti, for very good reasons; they're murderers and thugs, and we can't expect anyone to deal with these kinds of individuals.

One more, and then I'm afraid I have to go.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, last week you said that there were discussions going on about possibly sending police into Haiti. Is the United States considering sending its own police or other forces to quell the violence?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. The discussion that we had last week with our CARICOM and OAS friends had to do with sending in police to sustain a political settlement, not to go in and put down the current violence. There is, frankly, no enthusiasm right now for sending in military or police forces to put down the violence that we are seeing.

What we want to do right now is find a political solution, and then there are willing nations that would come forward with a police presence to implement the political agreement that the sides come to.

So it is important now for us to push for a political solution, not only between the efforts of the United States and the UN and the OAS and CARICOM, we're also working with the Francophone group, and I spoke to French Foreign Minister de Villepin about the situation this morning, and France is also willing to play a role in all of this.

Thank you very much.

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