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Remarks with Kuwait Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Kuwait Airport
Kuwait City, Kuwait
March 20, 2004

Secretary Powell with Kuwait Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed Sabah Al-Salem Al-Sabah.   State Department Photo FOREIGN MINISTER AL SABAH: (Speaks first in Arabic). I will just translate what I've said.


I welcome our dear friend, the Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the United States, Colin Powell, to this country. He is a very dear friend to the Kuwaiti people, and we never forget his personal role in restoring freedom to this land some years ago. We had a very productive discussion this morning with His Highness the Amir and with His Highness the Prime Minister. We discussed the situation in Iraq, we discussed the situation in the Middle East and we discussed the bilateral issues. It was a very fruitful discussion, and I welcome him again to Kuwait. Mr. Secretary.

Secretary Powell: Thank you very much, your Excellency. Your Excellency, ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be back. Every time I return to Kuwait I am reminded, as I am sure you are, of the deep friendship that exists between the people of the United States and Kuwait, forged in both wartime and in peace-time. No ally has been more steadfast than Kuwait. We think not only of the past, however. We think also of the many areas where our cooperation is moving forward for a better and safer future for the region and for all of us.

My talks today with His Highness the Amir, His Highness the Prime Minister and my colleague the Foreign Minister concentrated on what we can do to build that better future. First, we talked about the process underway in Iraq to bring about an Iraqi government that sits firmly in the hands of the Iraqi people. I've said to my interlocutors today that during my visit to Iraq yesterday I saw firsthand the progress being made.

The passage of the transitional administrative law is a major step forward politically. I also conveyed our determination to work with the Iraqi people in defending them from those who would tear down their recent gains or sow divisions within their society. The Iraqi people now have electricity, clean water, improving health services, an improving and modern education system, a new currency that is stable and many other elements necessary to build new lives in a stable, democratic nation. The $18 billion that the United States Congress has provided and the money that has been provided by the international community is now starting to flow into Iraq to speed up the reconstruction effort. Iraq's neighbors, especially the citizens of Kuwait, need no longer fear the horrors of the past when Saddam Hussein invaded his neighbors, murdered his people and tried persistently, and often succeeded, to develop weapons of mass destruction.

We also discussed how to move forward on Middle East peace. We looked at what needs to be done to end the violence that afflicts Israelis and Palestinians alike, and how to achieve the President's and the Arab League's vision of two states living side by side in peace. We pledged to continue our efforts to take advantage of every opportunity to move forward.

As you all know, President Bush had advanced a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. It recognized the aspirations and plans of Kuwait to build a more open, modern society. Last month, we signed a trade and investment agreement with Kuwait that provides a framework for us to work together on further economic reforms. We want to match Kuwait's efforts with whatever assistance we can provide through the President's Greater Middle East Initiative and the other programs that we have already announced. We have heard the voices of reform emerging from this region and, as friends do, we seek to help. Every society, every country is different, and so it is not for outsiders to impose on the people of the Middle East. In that spirit, we will develop our cooperation in partnership, and will work together on these issues in the months and years ahead.

Kuwait is an ally: a Major Non-NATO Ally, in formal terms. Our broad and deep cooperation grows from the past and extends to the future. Together, we can bring the benefits of this cooperation to the people of Kuwait and to the people of the entire region. Your Excellency, I thank you for receiving me, and I thank you for your always gracious hospitality. Thank you.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we'll go with Mr. Gedda here.

QUESTION: Are you startled by the allegations concerning misappropriation of funds from the Oil for Food program for Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're very concerned about it, and Ambassador Negroponte has met on a couple of occasions already with Secretary General Annan and his representatives in the UN Secretariat about it. The Secretary General has his own inspector general assets looking into it, but since they are pretty much constrained to investigating only UN employees or asking about UN employees, the Secretary General plans to expand the scope of that inquiry with outside auditors or investigators. We are working with the Secretary General to provide all the assistance we can, and to give him advice as to how he can expand the scope of it. Ambassador Bremer and the Governing Council have frozen all the records that exist in Baghdad with respect to the Oil for Food Program so they will be available…those records will be available when the various inquiries are held and investigators and auditors come forward. We are concerned, deeply concerned, that money that was supposed to be going to help the Iraqi people was diverted to Saddam Hussein, once again demonstrating the nature of that regime. That money was not used for food, or health care, or clean water. It was used for palaces and debauchery.

MR. BOUCHER: We can go to the back row, over there.

QUESTION: Ahmed Makki, Kuwait Television. Your Excellency, you talked about one of the purposes for your tour is to discuss the Greater Middle East initiative and reforms with regional leaders. Can you tell us how much success hae you achieved so far, and which countries have agreed to this reforms initiative?

SECRETARY POWELL: It wasn't a list of reforms that we presented to someone and said to them, "please agree." What we did today was to discuss what is happening in Kuwait. We had a good discussion of the reform effort that is underway here in Kuwait, with respect to what could be done at a municipal level and has to be done at a national level. Kuwait has been moving in this direction rather steadily with a legislature that is, how shall I put this gently, is showing some energy with respect to oversight of the government. This is as it should be in a system that is committed to reform and democracy.

I had discussions on reform yesterday in Saudi Arabia and I have had discussions on this with a number of other Arab leaders in Washington, and I will continue to have such discussions. It must come from within the region. It must come from each country examining its own history, its own culture, its own state of social and political development, and making a judgment as to how it is going to go forward into the future. We think there are some general principles that are useful. These principles, I know, are being considered by members of the Arab League to be discussed at the upcoming or forthcoming Arab League summit. This is not something for the U.S. to impose on anyone. It is something for the U.S. to help others achieve reform.

The agreement I talked about earlier, the investment and framework agreement, is to some extent economic reform, and the United States is helping Kuwait in this regard. So it has to come from within the region, and the United States, and hopefully its industrialized nation partners around the world—the G-8 and the European Union—are prepared to assist those nations in the ways most appropriate for those nations to use that assistance to move forward.

MR. BOUCHER: We'll go down here.

QUESTION: A question to the Foreign Minister. Could we get an update, please, on the status of the investigation into allegations of corruption between Kuwaiti companies and the U.S. Company Haliburton, and has there been any contact between the U.S. Government and the Kuwaiti Government to further this investigation?

FOREIGN MINISTER AL SABAH: This is an issue that has been debated in Parliament. The Kuwait National Assembly has already formed an investigative committee to look into the matters. Also, the matter has been referred to the legal authorities, the public prosecutors office. So, I don't think it is appropriate for me to discuss things that the judiciary is looking into.

MR. BOUCHER: The lady in the front row.

QUESTION: Reem Al-Mae from Al-Rai Al-Aam Newspaper. Washington has called on Damascus to withdraw its military forces from Lebanon and not to oppress Syrian minorities. Does this mean that the U.S. administration wants Syria to launch reforms that can lead to giving the Lebanese the rights of (inaudible) determinations, as well as creating more liberties inside Syria? In this context, does Washington reject the idea of extending the term of the Lebanese President Emile Lahoud, whose term expires next September? Thank you, Sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: Syria has been in Lebanon for a number of years. We have always made it clear that we would like to see Syria withdraw from Lebanon, and for Lebanon to enjoy full sovereignty for its land and over its people. And we've always encouraged Lebanon to extend its army, for example, to the south…all the way to the border with Israel, in order to provide security in that part of the country. That is our policy and will continue to be our policy. The pace at which this happens or when it happens remains to be determined. That is our policy. I have no particular comment about the President.

MR. BOUCHER: We only have time for one more. This gentleman…

QUESTION: (In Arabic) Mr. Secretary, you mentioned yesterday during your Press Conference in Iraq that you have security problems facing the American forces in Iraq and you've decided to transfer the security responsibilities to the Iraqis. Does that mean that the American forces now really realize that there is a threat coming on the security side?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is a security problem, and I think what I said was that increasingly we hope that Iraqi security forces: police forces, local defense forces, border police and the military, will be able to assume a greater percentage of the burden to deal with these security threats. The United States and its coalition partners will also be there in considerable strength to go after these former regime elements or terrorists who have come into the country. So, it will be a partnership between Iraqi security forces and Coalition forces to defeat these people.

The fact of the matter is if it wasn't for these terrorist elements and residual regime elements that don't realize that the bad days are not coming back, the reconstruction effort would have moved along much faster, the Iraqi people would be a lot better off and we would have seen more progress toward the political goals of the Iraqi people through their Governing Council they are establishing for themselves.

Let there be no doubt about it that these people who set off bombs, who commit terrorist activities, are enemies of the Iraqi people. They are attacking us and they are attacking the Iraqi people. What they are doing is keeping it, making it much more difficult for the Iraqi people to achieve the kind of political system and achieve the kind of freedom and be given the opportunity to rebuild their country so that their country can be a stable democratic neighbor to all the other countries in the region, and a stable system that everybody can be proud of. They will not prevail. They will be defeated. But, while they are still around they are causing considerable trouble, and both Coalition and Iraqi forces are going to go after them.

Released on March 20, 2004

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