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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 > April

Press Briefing at Luns Theater at NATO Headquarters

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Brussels, Belgium
April 2, 2004

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Today I joined my NATO Foreign Minister colleagues and Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer in reaffirming our alliance and union against terrorism – terrorism in all its forms. In a new declaration that was approved this afternoon we have pledged to strengthen our commitment to transform the Alliance, to meet and defeat the scourge of terrorism whenever and wherever it arrives and in whatever form it arrives. We categorically reject the deliberate targeting of civilians for any purpose, any time anywhere. To bring more forces to this fight, to bring more power to this fight, NATO has expanded its maritime interdiction operation in the Mediterranean and pledged counterterrorism support for the Athens Olympics.

We’ve also committed ourselves to support a new package of measures to be approved at the Istanbul Summit that will further bolster our capability to fight terrorism.

Naturally, we also discussed NATO’s effort to combat terrorism in Afghanistan. NATO’s leadership of the International Security Assistance Force represents the Alliance’s first operation outside Europe and stands as a major counterterrorism success. NATO and the Afghan government are now expanding operations beyond Kabul with the goal of establishing five new Provincial Reconstruction Teams by the time of the Istanbul Summit at the end of June.

The United States would like NATO to provide security support fro the Afghan elections that are going to be held in September – and for that support to be provided as soon as possible so that it will help with the registration of voters for the election over the next several months.

We deplore the violence in Kosovo but applaud NATO’s quick action in restoring order. This demonstrates NATO’s continued importance as a guarantor of security and stability in the Balkans. We will not waiver in our commitment to ensure peace in Europe.

We discussed, as well, the possibility of ending NATO’s successful peacekeeping mission in Bosnia this December. If NATO leaders decide at Istanbul to end SFOR we would expect the European Union to launch a mission there to replace SFOR. That end will lead to a new beginning – a new security mission led by the EU and supported by NATO under the Berlin-Plus arrangements to foster Bosnia’s long-term stability and its Euro-Atlantic integration. A key ingredient to that process will be the capture and delivery of war criminals to the Hague.

In our discussions today we also covered a broader role for NATO in Iraq. The U.S. believes the Alliance should consider a new collective role after the return of sovereignty to an Iraqi government. And we discussed a new security cooperation initiative for the greater Middle East, which NATO is considering for the Istanbul Summit. This initiative will be part of President Bush’s forward strategy of freedom to promote political, social and economic reform in the region.

The next step for NATO will be to consult with selected countries in the region before finalizing its proposal for Istanbul. The United States strongly supports this initiative.

Finally and perhaps most significantly today, the NATO Foreign Ministers welcomed seven new colleagues. They bring a new vigor to our proceedings as their countries do to the Alliance – now 26 strong. Their presence here today is a testament to the enduring strength of the Alliance and its continuing appeal as a source of security in a dangerous world. Together with our new allies we will meet later today in the NATO-Russia Council. Through practical cooperation on issues such as counterterrorism, the Council demonstrates that Russia and NATO are becoming partners in fighting the new threats of the 21st Century.

Now I’d be pleased to take your questions.

MR. BOUCHER: We’ll start here with the Associated Press.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, trying to square what you said about a NATO role in Iraq with the Secretary General, they’re quite close, the two statements. But there’s still some confusion in my mind. I thought your approach was that not today but possibly in Istanbul would you get what you’re looking for. He speaks in terms of a NATO role requiring the consent of the new government that takes over July 1. Sorry about the lengthy question.

Are we saying then that you don’t expect this to happen at least until July? Or could it be conditional in Istanbul?



QUESTION: It seems pretty clear though.

SECRETARY POWELL: It’s pretty clear.

The important thing is we’re going to start working on this, spending more time in considering what the options might be for an expanded NATO role. I always have to point out that some 18 of the 26 nations, including the United States, of the Alliance are already engaged in Iraq. And I think as we get closer to the date of the transfer of sovereignty we will have to see at that point what coordination, what consultation, would be appropriate with the interim government as it emerges.

I think it is appropriate if this is a sovereign government that is going to have sovereignty over Iraq beginning on the 1st of July, and that is still our goal, then certainly NATO should be in consultation with that government. But I would think it unlikely that NATO would undertake a formal, collective alliance role before full sovereignty of the kind we have described has returned and there are consultations with that government. I also am relatively confident that that government would welcome this kind of assistance from the international community.

MR. BOUCHER: Let’s go to the third row over here.

QUESTION: (Inaudible). Mr. Secretary, would a broader role of NATO in Iraq, would that mean that it would take command of all the forces in Iraq and, as such, be in charge of the military aspect of that, provided all these preconditions you just mentioned were met?

SECRETARY POWELL: We haven’t defined what their role might be. That, I think, is a bit of a stretch from the thinking right now, but the ideas that are out there now include perhaps NATO taking over one of the sectors, NATO playing a role in helping the Iraqi forces get themselves more capable to provide for their own security. I think that as we look at it now the large U.S. presence there, coalition presence there, will still be there on the first of July and will remain under the current command arrangements. I think NATO would be prepared to take over that entire operation shortly after the first of July, is more than we are looking at, at the moment. But I think there are some interesting ideas for NATO to consider. I will let the Secretary General work with the military committee as they explore these kinds of options.

MR. BOUCHER: Can we come down here in the front?

QUESTION: Nicholas Kralev with the Washington Times. Mr. Secretary, we now have a 26-member military alliance, which works on consensus. At the same time you and the President have repeatedly said that the United States reserves the right, when it thinks that its interests demand, to act with a coalition of the willing in the future as it did in Iraq. I know there are many reasons to have this alliance, but what’s the point having it if you can’t convince 26 of your closest allies that military action might be necessary some times?

SECRETARY POWELL: This alliance has served the cause of freedom and peace and stability in Europe for so many years. I heard the same arguments when we went to 19: that it would be difficult to get a consensus. The European Union is having the same debate now as it goes to 25. As we go to 26, obviously there are more voices to hear, more people who have to be consulted and more viewpoints that are coming in, but I don’t think it means that NATO is unable to act—quite the contrary. We are seeing NATO act now in Afghanistan and I’m sure, as I heard today, the seven new voices that have been brought to the table are fully supportive of that effort. The additional voices that were in the room today joined in the general view that NATO should be looking at what we can do in Iraq.

Every nation in NATO has the ability to act in its own national self-interest ultimately. You don’t give up your sovereignty by becoming a member of NATO. There will still be occasions in the future when it might be appropriate to form coalitions of the willing for various operations. In fact, if you look at the Berlin-Plus arrangement where NATO gets first call in a major crisis, but if NATO for one reason or another chooses not to act, the European Union might choose to act, drawing on NATO assets or it might choose to act just as the European Union, using a coalition of willing nations from the European Union.

MR. BOUCHER: Let’s go down to the edge here.

QUESTION: Mike Yussef from Nile News, Egyptian Television. I am just wondering, Mr. Colin Powell, you said the finding of the weapons of mass destruction in Iraq is an old story, had been closed completely. Or is there something new the U.S. would like to add at this time?

SECRETARY POWELL: The file has not been closed. We’re still working hard to examine all of the documents that have been uncovered to continue to look at sites that have not yet been exploited and to conduct interviews. Mr. Duelfer, who is now in charge of the Support Group Operations, was back and gave an interim report, I think earlier this week, and he will be going back to continue his work.

The one thing we are absolutely sure of is that Saddam Hussein and that evil regime that he led, had the intention, the infrastructure, and Mr. Duelfer’s report this week indicated that they have seen evidence of this infrastructure, so that if he was ever free from constraints he could go back to whatever level of production he might have chosen to go to.

What we haven’t found are specific stockpiles. Whether they will be found or not in the future, we will see what Mr. Duelfer comes up with. But I think the very fact that we were dealing with a regime that had used these weapons in the past against his own people, against its neighbors, never lost the intention or desire to develop such weapons.

Mr. Duelfer reported on programs that had to do with the delivery systems, how you deliver these kinds of weapons, and they weren’t being designed and built to deliver humanitarian goods, they were being designed and built to deliver weapons beyond the borders of Iraq, weapons that would include warheads that could contain…warheads of mass construction.

MR. BOUCHER: I think we have time for one more. Let’s go to the gentleman down here.

QUESTION: Laurence (inaudible) from Le Monde.

Mr. Powell, you have had sometimes, I would say, a tough relation with France and Mr. De Villepin in the past. Do you see the nomination of Mr. Barnier as a signal of France’s willingness to start better relations with the U.S.? And do you expect France joining the international coalition in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to my relationship with Mr. Barnier, I assume that this was simply an internal French matter. President Chirac decided to make changes in his Cabinet and I’m pleased to work with Minister Barnier. I look forward to a good relationship with him.

Minister de Villepin and I, even though we had some very serious disagreements over the course of our service together, we never lost the ability to talk to each other as friends and as friends of common purpose: to try to get to the right answer as we saw the right answer. We never forgot that France and the United States have been friends and allies for a very very long period of time. There have been disagreements over that very long period of time. One thing about a disagreement, if you work at it you can get over it. I think we’re in the process of getting over that disagreement and we will see as we go forward what France might or might not be willing to do with respect to a NATO deployment in Iraq once sovereignty has returned to an Iraqi interim government.

MR. BOUCHER: Okay, thank you ladies and gentlemen.

Released on April 2, 2004

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