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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

Interview on Cox Broadcasting

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
February 18, 2004

(10:15 a.m. EST)

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Mr. Secretary, thanks for joining us today.

SECRETARY POWELL: My pleasure, Mike.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: One of the first things I wanted to ask you about was the President's AIDS initiative. Some people that had been initially supportive have been critical that the money hasn't been coming fast enough. They say that the expectations aren't being met.

Now, I understand that the President has an announcement soon on this front, and I wanted to ask you what you could tell us.

SECRETARY POWELL: He will be making an announcement in the very near future. The fact of the matter is that this program is alive and well, and money is about to start being distributed through a variety of agencies in 14 different countries.

This is one of the greatest crises facing the world. Millions of people are dying of AIDS, and the President's program will help at least seven million of these infected people right off the bat, so this is a terrific program.

It took us some time to get it through Congress and get it approved and get it through the whole appropriations process, but it is now approved and I have got Ambassador Randy Tobias on the State Department staff who will be leading this effort. And you will see the money start to flow within the next few days.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Good. I wanted to ask you about Iraq. There have been some calls from the international community for the United States and Britain to admit that they made a mistake on weapons of mass destruction. Is that something that will be considered or is there still hope in the Administration that WMD will be found somewhere in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, first of all, we did not make a mistake by going in and removing this despotic ruler. And we did it because of -- he had -- the fact that he had an intention to have and develop weapons of mass destruction, he had the capability to do so, and he had programs to do so.

What is disputed, is in dispute is whether or not he actually had stockpiles on the ground. And let the Iraqi Survey Group answer that question, once and for all. Dr. Kay says he doesn't think there were any stockpiles found. But let Mr. Duelfer, who now leads that effort, go and answer the question, once and for all.

Nobody should have any misgivings or illusions about the nature of this regime or that we did the right thing. We did the right thing. Dr. Kay says we did the right thing. The United Nations, for 12 years, tried to get Saddam Hussein to answer the question and he would not. And finally, the President said, this is a risk that we cannot take. This is risk not only to the United States, but to the people of the region, to the people of the world. The world is a lot better off because Saddam Hussein is no longer in charge and his regime is no longer in power.

Now what we have to do is focus not on the past, but on the future. We have to focus on building a democracy in Iraq. And it's coming. It's coming slowly but surely. People are voting. Town councils are forming. Schools are opening. Hospitals are opening. Women are being exposed to the workplace and to get an education.

And so we're hard at work, working with our international partners, working with the United Nations to leave in place in Iraq a democratic form of government. We will not shrink from this task. We will be successful.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Do you believe that weapons of mass destruction may still be found in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I believe it is possible. But I must say, I thought they would have been discovered earlier if they were there. So I really can't answer the question. Just as Director Tenet of the CIA said, we'll have to finish our work to see what the facts actually are.

But the intelligence information that was given to the President and was given to me, that was given to Dr. Kay when he started his work, led everybody to the conclusion that there were weapons of mass destruction stockpiles there. And that was a sound basis upon which to make the decisions that were made.

Dr. Kay, who now says he doesn't think there are such stockpiles there, went into the work believing there were, and there was a sound basis for that belief.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Now let's talk a little bit about the elections in Iraq. You mentioned that people are voting. And recently, the Shia and the Kurds announced that the two of them would like to see elections for the transition that's still coming up on June 30th. But they'd like to see, if nothing else, at least partial elections in the south and the north.

The United States has been committed to a caucus idea. What can you do to try and reconcile this? Is the caucus idea still plausible?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, what we're doing is waiting for Ambassador Brahimi, the UN representative who went there and talked to all the parties, to report to Kofi Annan in the next day or so, and then Secretary General Kofi Annan will make a judgment and provide a recommendation to us.

We all want to see elections. There is no doubt about that. Elections are the way you have democratic forms of government. The question is: How soon can elections be held, and should we do something before elections are held? Should we have a transitional government?

That's what we're planning to see come about, a transitional government by the end of June, so that the Coalition Provisional Authority can turn responsibility over to the Iraqis.

Now, how that transitional government comes into being, do we use the caucus system or some other arrangement to arrive at that transitional point next summer, that is what we are going to be talking to the UN about and that's what we have to decide in the next several weeks.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: But what principles --

SECRETARY POWELL: But ultimately, we want to see full, free, fair elections on the basis of a constitution that has been approved by the Iraqi people, and we want to see a government come out of that democratic system. But that's going to be a little ways in the future. Whether we can do it by the end of this year or by sometime in 2005, that's what we have to examine and come to a conclusion on.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: How much weight are you going to give the UN's opinion on this, and what principles and parameters does the United States plan to stick to as far as this transition?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right now, we are still moving toward June 30th as the date that we want to transfer sovereignty. And I think we're waiting to see whether the UN has some ideas that will help us in designing the transitional government, other than the plan that was in the 15 November arrangement, which was for a caucus system.

And so we're waiting to see whether or not the UN has better ideas than the caucus system. If they do have better ideas, we'll certainly consider them. But we want to move ahead with the transfer of sovereignty. And so we're still looking at the 30th of June, to do some refinement of the caucus system or some other idea that the UN might have. We have an open mind on this. And we're very pleased that the UN is now playing such an active role in helping the international community work to get an answer to these questions.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Moving on to the Middle East, we've spent the last several decades -- diplomats in the United States and the world community -- trying to get the Israelis and the Palestinians to engage in peace talks. Now it seems the direction is unilateral disengagement.

Tell me a little bit about the U.S. feeling about the disengagement in Gaza, the fence going up in the West Bank. And are these bypassing the President's roadmap to peace?

SECRETARY POWELL: The President still believes in the roadmap because the roadmap reflects the vision that the President has of two states living side by side in peace with each other. That's what the international community wants.

We thought we were on a good roll last summer, when then-Prime Minister Abu Mazen was installed, and we started to see some movement. But unfortunately, Chairman Arafat's action made it difficult for Abu Mazen to do his job, and so he stepped down as Prime Minister of the Palestinian Authority.

There is now a new Prime Minister, Abu Alaa. We're encouraging him to do more in the area of security to end terrorist attacks.

Meanwhile, on the Israeli side, Prime Minister Sharon has indicated that they want to pull out of the settlements in Gaza. This is an important initiative on Mr. Sharon's part. Whether they do it as part of a settlement with the other side, in other words, not unilaterally, remains to be seen. And we can't say we accept the movement out of Gaza unless we understand how it plays into what the Israelis might be thinking of doing in the West Bank, and how that also affects the route that the fence might be taking.

So there a lot of pieces in play right now and we'll have to see how they all fit. And that's why we've sent a delegation of diplomats over to talk to the Israeli side and to the Palestinian side.

We remain engaged. We're spending a lot of time on this issue. We're following the developments very, very closely. And I think that Mr. Sharon's idea of coming out of the Gaza Strip is an interesting one; we just have to see how it plays in the overall goal that we have of creating a Palestinian state.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Moving on to Haiti. Ten years ago, you were part of a delegation that went to Haiti and helped bring Aristide to power and helped create some stability in that country. Now, ten years later, his rule is being challenged.

You have ruled out the possibility, at least now, of military intervention. What's different now than ten years ago?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, ten years ago, he wasn't in power. He had been removed from power by a military coup. And we persuaded the military leaders to step down and leave the country, and allow Mr. Aristide to come back and take over the presidency again.

And so he is the elected, democratically elected President of Haiti, and we cannot allow a situation to come about where he is thrown out of power by thugs or by some rebel movement or the opposition. The opposition has complaints that they wish to present in a political forum, and what we have to do is get a political dialogue going between President Aristide and the opposition leaders.

So the international community has come together: the United States; the OAS; the United Nations; other interested countries; the Francophonie group, as it's called, France and Senegal, who have a historic connection to Haiti. We have all come together behind a plan, the plan of the Caribbean nations, the CARICOM plan, as it's called. We are supporting that plan as a way to start a political dialogue, and we hope that both sides will come into this political dialogue.

We are prepared, the international community is prepared, to do what it can to help with additional police forces once a political settlement has been arrived at. But right now, there are no plans for the outside world to come in and impose a police or military solution on this problem. We're willing to help with it after a political settlement has been arrived at.

But I must say that ten years after we allowed and permitted and got President Aristide back into this office, I regret that we haven't seen more progress than I had hoped we would see when I was a participant in these events back in 1994.

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for your time.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

* * *

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Can I ask you one on-the-record, but off-the-camera question that I didn't get in, very quickly?


MR. MAJCHROWITZ: Assuming the President is elected --

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President. (Laughter.)

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: -- are you willing to be around for another four?

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President. (Laughter.)

MR. MAJCHROWITZ: So not an official yet?

SECRETARY POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the President. (Laughter.)


Released on February 18, 2004

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