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On-the-Record Briefing on U.S. Foreign Policy

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Foreign Press Center
Washington, DC
May 28, 2004

(10:22 a.m. EDT)

Secretary Powell gives a briefing at the Foreign Press Center, Washington, DC, May 28, 2004. State Department photo.

MR. DENIG: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Welcome, also, to the journalists watching from our New York Foreign Press Center. As promised, Secretary Powell has returned to the Foreign Press Center for a briefing this morning. We are very pleased about that. Unfortunately, our time is limited, so, again, I'll urge you to keep your questions very short, use the microphone as usual.

The Secretary will have a few opening remarks, then we'll take your questions.

Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much, Paul. It's a great pleasure to be back at the Foreign Press Center, and especially to welcome our colleagues from New York and elsewhere around the world.

I just might say a few words about the situation in Iraq. As the President indicated in his speech earlier this week at the Army War College, we're moving forward with our plans to ensure that there is a transfer of sovereignty from the Coalition Provisional Authority to an interim Iraqi government by the end of June, at the latest. Things seem to be moving along. Ambassador Brahimi is continuing his work of consultation with respect to identifying leaders in the new government as well as cabinet ministers for the new government. And we are in close touch with Ambassador Brahimi, and I, again, thank him and compliment him on the efforts that he's put into this matter.

We are hard at work as well putting in place an American embassy that will replace the Coalition Provisional Authority at the appropriate time. Ambassador Negroponte has been confirmed and he is preparing himself for his new assignment.

We are hard at work in New York on the resolution, and I am in contact with my Security Council foreign minister colleagues to see what suggestions they may have for language changes, as is always the case when one is working on a resolution. You put down a draft and work off that draft.

But I'm rather pleased with the comments I've received so far. They are rather constructive. There are still some issues that have to be resolved, and we'll be working on that in the days and weeks ahead.

And remember what the President was interested in: first and foremost, get security under control. And our military commanders are hard at work and we are accelerating the buildup of Iraqi forces so that they can take over an increasing proportion of the security responsibilities within the country.

We do have a political process underway of the kind I just described, and we are as committed as we have always been to the reconstruction effort. And with the work we are doing on the UN resolution, this gives us the ability to rally the international community fully behind the new interim Iraqi government and puts in train the process that we have that will lead to elections by the end of this year or January 31, 2005, at the latest, for a transitional assembly, which will create a new transitional government, and that will take the country through the preparation of a constitution and full elections by the end of 2005.

The security situation remains challenging, but there have been some developments around Fallujah and in the south over the last several days that you are all aware of that would suggest that those hot spots are coming under control.

I just might touch on a couple of other issues quickly before opening up to your questions.

We are deeply concerned about the destruction and loss of life that has taken place in the Dominican Republic and in Haiti as a result of recent rains, which have produced mudslides, and we are in touch with both governments. Fortunately, we had some military forces, as did Canada and France and Chile and other nations, in Haiti that were providing peacekeeping activities, where performing peacekeeping activities can now also be used for humanitarian and rescue operations. U.S. Agency for International Development is examining where we have stocks nearby of food, medicine, plastic sheeting and other things that might be necessary to help the people who have been made homeless or who are, have been injured as a result of these mudslides and torrential rains, and we will do everything we can to assist them.

And, finally, I'd like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Sudanese, the authorities in Khartoum and the SPLM, for the agreement they reached the other day, the signing of three protocols that will take us closer to a comprehensive agreement that will bring this terrible, tragic war, hopefully, to an end.

At the same time, we must remain deeply concerned, as an international community, over the situation in Western Sudan and Darfur. And we are in the closest touch with Sudanese authorities, with Kofi Annan and the United Nations and other international agencies, the European Union and others, to do everything we can in the coming days and weeks to help the people of Darfur, and that is a high priority for this Administration.

I'll stop there and then open myself to questions.

MR. DENIG: Let me remind you to use the microphone and identify yourself and your news organization. We'll start on the Middle East there, with the blue shirt.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you said that you are happy to hear the language being suggested, but China, for instance, is suggesting that the resolution indicates that the American presence in Iraq should be ended after the elections in January. How do you respond to this, and do you see that there is a possibility that negotiations in the Security Council would stall and that the U.S. would pull this resolution, as it happened before the war?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't think the resolution will stall. I don't think it's anything of that nature. People have been talking about a Chinese proposal for two or three days, but there really is not a Chinese proposal, as such. Before we tabled the resolution, the Chinese had some ideas as to what should be in such a resolution, and we're taking those ideas into account.

The issue of what authority the transitional government should have with respect to the continued presence of coalition forces in the country really has been dealt with. It's made clear in the resolution that those forces are there at the consent of the government of the people of Iraq. And if you look at perambulatory paragraph ten, you will see clearly that those forces are there at the consent, which means that if consent is withdrawn, then consent is withdrawn, and the coalition forces would depart.

The UN resolution also says let's review it after 12 months or anytime the government of Iraq wishes to review it. And we have spoken clearly about that.

If my Security Council colleagues have a better formulation of that language that they think would be clearer, let's consider it.

And so, as is always the case with resolutions, there are debates and disagreements and there are late-night sessions. But, so far, I don't see anything that would suggest that we will be unable to come into agreement. We are seriously listening to all of our Security Council colleagues because we want this to be a good, solid resolution reflecting the will of the international community to support this interim government as it goes forward to place Iraq on a path to freedom and democracy and open, free, fair elections.

MR. DENIG: Okay, let's go to the Netherlands, here on the front row.

QUESTION: Sir, a question about Europe and Iraq. What would you expect -- do you expect a bigger contribution of the Europeans, particularly after June 30th? I mean, after June 30th, it's no longer President Bush asking for more help. And not all Europeans are very keen on helping out the President, but then it's an Iraqi prime minister or president saying to the rest of the world, please, on behalf of 25 million Iraqis, help us out. Could that change the whole momentum?

SECRETARY POWELL: I hope it does, because many of our friends around the world, and especially some of those who were not supportive and were quite critical of our efforts last year to liberate Iraq, have been saying you should turn it over to a sovereign government and you should do it under a UN resolution that empowers that sovereign government. Well, that's about to happen. And on the 1st of July, there will be such a government. And I hope that all of the European nations, as well as other nations throughout the world, will examine this in light of this new situation and respond as best they can to the request that they will receive from the president and the prime minister of the new interim Iraqi government.

Now, some nations have made it clear that they will not be able to send troops, some of the larger European nations. I point out, once again, that 16 of the 26 nations of NATO have troops there, so it's a pretty good coalition of NATO nations, and I hope that coalition will grow. But I'm not expecting this resolution to suddenly open a floodgate of additional major troop contributions.

And, frankly, what I'm hearing from the Iraqis is, while they are pleased that the coalition will be there to help them, what they really want to focus on is: How do we build up our own capacity? How do we speed up the training of our military and our civil defense units, our ICDC units and our police forces, so we can protect ourselves? Grateful for the help, want us to stay. That's why consent is in the resolution and they're anxious to build up their forces.

So I hope I will see, if not additional troops, more reconstruction money, more advisors, more police trainers. There are many other things that nations of the world can provide to Iraq beside troops.

The issue has been sovereignty. And there is a debate up at the UN in New York as to: Do you really mean it? Is it full sovereignty? The simple answer to that question is: Ambassador Bremer is going to be leaving. The Coalition Provisional Authority will have finished its work and ended. And so the governing authority, the government that is there now, is the CPA under the leadership of Ambassador Bremer, who has done an outstanding job. But that goes away. Therefore, the governing authority went somewhere. It goes to this new government. And it is sovereign because there is no other entity there claiming sovereignty. The coalition military forces that will be there are there at the consent of this new government.

MR. DENIG: Okay, let's go to Al Arabiya there in the gray suit, purple tie. There we go.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, you are here after you have met President Bush and he is going to lay out his Middle East or Greater Middle East plan at G-8 summit. Some Arab leaders have expressed some concern or reservations about that plan. How do you see such plan will succeed amid these kind of reservations?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm very pleased that at the recent Arab League Summit, and in the ministerial meeting before that, statements came out, statements of principle with respect to reform, talking about universal values of democracy and human rights. I think this was a major step forward for the Arab League to come forward with such a statement, and it is consistent with the kind of things we have been saying.

I think people misunderstood what we had in mind when it was first leaked some months ago. The United States and the other members of the G-8 cannot impose reform, cannot impose modernization, on any country. Every country is sovereign. But what we said to our friends in the Arab world and in other parts of the world -- it's not just an Arab matter -- is that we believe that these universal values of democracy and human rights, respecting the views of all people, getting the most out of the human talent that you have in your country, these common fundamental human values are applicable to all people, and that there is a need for reform in many parts of the world and in the Arab world. It is not an American judgment. It is the judgment of UN reports. It's a judgment of the Alexandria Library Conference. And many other voices in the Arab community are asking for reform.

We also understand that we can help with the process of reform in each of these countries, but it has to come from within the country. The country has to decide where it wants to go and at what pace, and it has to be consistent with its history, with its culture, with its current state of development -- economic, political, social, civic development.

And what we're going to do at the G-8 is, for those leaders of the industrialized world, to listen to Arab voices, listen to what they are being told from the Arab League Summit, and determine best ways to respond to the needs that are being expressed by the nations of the broader Middle East and North Africa, as we're calling it. And so that's what I hope to see come out of G-8: a solid statement of support for modernization reform efforts in the broader Middle East and North Africa area.

MR. DENIG: Let's go to Germany, green shirt, far right.

QUESTION: Martin Wagner, German Public Radio.

What is the State Department doing to repair the damage, if one can say so, done by American soldiers in Abu Ghraib torturing Iraqi prisoners?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are deeply distressed over what happened at Abu Ghraib. You've heard the President speak to this directly. He apologized to those who were abused. He apologized to the world for this misbehavior on the part of some of our troops.

The President has directed, and Secretary Rumsfeld, in response to the President's direction, has set in train a number of investigations to make sure that we understand the totality of this problem and that we follow it up the chain of command to see where responsibility lies and who failed to do their duty.

To repair the damage -- and damage has been done as a result of this, there's no question about it -- what we are going to show to the world is what democracy does, what the strongest democracy in the world does when faced with a situation like this. We don't turn away. We don't hide from it. We investigate it. We find out what happened. We have a free press that examines it and lets the whole world know what happened and what we're doing about it. We have a Congress that supervises all of this and we have a court system as well.

And so what the world will now see is a strong democracy that believes in freedom and believes in justice bring those responsible to justice. And I hope it will be an example to the world of how you deal with these kinds of tragedies when they come along.

And I think you'll see this happen in a relatively short period of time. Secretary Rumsfeld is spending a great deal of time on this, as you are aware.

MR. DENIG: Let's go to the Sudan, far right there in the blue shirt.

QUESTION: Ahmed El Bashir from Sudan. The Sudanese people are grateful to you and the President for playing the positive role of facilitation and coaching.


QUESTION: And this approach is different from taking sides and condemning. Now, if we look at what is happening in Darfur, are you planning to play the same role of bringing the people together and playing the same role of facilitation, rather than condemnation that the pressure groups are following?

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: We did spend a great deal of time on the discussions and negotiations that took place in Lake Naivasha and we are pleased that it worked out well.

In all of my conversations with Sudanese leaders about the negotiations at Lake Naivasha in recent weeks, I've also spoken with them about the situation in Darfur. And what we need to do is find a solution that ends the fighting, that brings those militias under control and that opens up access to the region. And we have said to the Sudanese Government that they have a responsibility to easing access for the international community.

In recent days, we have seen some improvement. There have been responses to our demarches and to the conversations that I've been having with both the President of Sudan as well as Vice President Taha. But the situation is dire. There are hundreds of thousands of people who are in need, and we need to move faster. We need to get more relief supplies in there. We need to get more relief personnel in there. And right now. We can worry about how this happened, how it got started, who's responsible, who isn't responsible later. In due course, we can do that kind of analysis.

Right now, we need the area opened up as quickly as possible and the ceasefire put in place as quickly as possible, and the militias brought under control as quickly as possible, so that we can help these desperate people in need. The rainy season is only three and a half weeks away now, and we cannot allow this situation to continue. We've got to see movement now.

QUESTION: Are you trying to bring the Garang government and the - both - to talk?

SECRETARY POWELL: Right now, my focus has been on working with the Sudanese Government to get access to the region. We can worry about the political aspects of this a little later. But my focus is on the needs of the people right now.

MR. DENIG: All right. Let's go to Al-Hayat in the beige blouse, there. Wait for the microphone, introduce yourself.

QUESTION: Yes, Joyce Karam, from Al Hayat newspaper. We've heard the latest report from Iraq that Iyad Allawi has been appointed for prime minister position. My question is, is that a sign that it's always going to be a Shiite in this position, and can you confirm the report please?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think the report you're referring to is a wire service report over the last hour that said that the Governing Council had voted and the result of that vote was that they are recommending or -- nominating is, I think, one of the words they used -- but they are recommending Mr. Allawi for the position of prime minister.

I'm pleased that Mr. Allawi has that kind of support, but we are working with Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi, the Secretary General's representative, and he is the one we are waiting to hear from, not only with respect to the prime minister, but the president, the two vice presidents, as well as all of the cabinet ministers.

And so we have no position on any candidate at this moment because we are waiting to hear from Ambassador Brahimi and he needs time to complete his work. And I thank him once again for the very, very important work that he is doing.

MR. DENIG: Let's go to Venezuela, first row.

QUESTION: Maria Elena Matheus, El Universal, Venezuela. Secretary Powell, you know that today starts a process on a petition for a recall referendum in Venezuela. But the Venezuelan Government has said that the U.S. Government shouldn't be a member of the Friends of Venezuela, which is a group that has been trying to broker this recall referendum. Is the U.S. going to continue trying to help the process, or it's going to just stay aside?

SECRETARY POWELL: The process begins today, the reparo process, as it is known, where people will be able to verify their signatures. There was some question about a large number of signatures. And they will be able, over the next several days, to go to places where they can verify the data associated with their signature and their signature. And I hope that that will happen in an open, free, fair way with no interference on the part of anyone. And when that process has been finished and the electoral authorities in Venezuela make a judgment as to the validity of the votes, how many additional, not votes, but signatures, for the documents are valid, that will point in one of two directions. Either it will point to there being sufficient number of signatures for a recall referendum, or there are not sufficient number of signatures. It is now up to the Venezuelan people. The United States just hopes that the Government of Venezuela will allow this process to move forward in accordance with its own constitutional principles. We are not interfering in it. All we want to do is make sure that the people of Venezuela are not denied the opportunity to exercise their rights under their own constitution.

MR. DENIG: Let's go to Japan in the gray suit.

QUESTION: Thank you, Secretary. I am Tadashi Tabata, TV Asahi, Japanese TV network. I have two questions. With regard to Prime Minister Koizumi's trip to Pyongyang, what is your assessment on his trip? Particularly with regard to the Sergeant Jenkins issue, he is also a husband of abductee and also a deserter from U.S. Army. And it's a serious issue in Japan. Is there any room to negotiate with Japanese Government? And how much room to political decision?

And second question is, Japanese journalists were attacked and killed, maybe killed, in Iraq yesterday. And what is your reaction about that?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the second question, we regret the fact that a journalist lost his life. Iraq is a dangerous place. The lines of communication are dangerous and a number of journalists have been killed and we regret every loss of life, not only of journalists, but of anyone who is trying merely to do the work of helping the Iraqi people achieve democracy and freedom.

And I think it should show us once again that there are people in Iraq who are determined to try to go back into the days of Saddam Hussein and a dictatorial regime. It shows why we have to not let that happen, we will not let that happen, and we will fight even harder, not only to protect journalists and our own troops, but to protect the Iraqi people from this dead hand of the past that keeps trying to come out and pull them backwards.

With respect to Prime Minister Koizumi's visit, I think once again he showed boldness and courage in going to Pyongyang to try to resolve this tragic situation of the kidnapped Japanese citizens. I'm pleased he was able to bring back a number of those individuals from Pyongyang back to Japan. And I'm also pleased that he's made it clear that Japan remains strongly committed to the six-party talks and for the complete, verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of North Korea's nuclear capability.

With respect to Sergeant Jenkins, he is a deserter from the United States Army and remains so. My understanding is that he did not wish to come out. And I also understand that arrangements are being made for his wife and children to see him at another location at some point in the future.

MR. DENIG: Okay, last question. We'll go to Khaled in the middle, please.

SECRETARY POWELL: That was fast.

QUESTION: My name is Khaled Dawoud from Egypt's Al Ahram newspaper, sir.

Just to bring you back, a follow-up on the Greater Middle East Initiative. I want to confirm, I mean, that we have seen statements from the Egyptian Government sort of expressing they're not so happy with the fact of the meeting that's going to take between the leaders of the G-8 and the notion that they're being put in the same basket with countries which they do not necessarily see as a part of their understanding of the Middle East. So I was wondering if you have a comment on Egypt's not taking part and the invitation, whether an invitation was taken.

And my second question, just a quick one on update us what's next on the Middle East peace process. What shall we see after all that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah. No, I've heard those comments from some European -- excuse me, some Egyptian commentators. But I believe that it is not an effort to put people in a box. It is an effort to take people out of a box. It's an effort to take people who want to see modernization and reform in their society, who can look in their own country and see that they are not progressing well enough with respect to democracy, with respect to education, with respect to economic development, with respect to political modernization.

And to the extent that nations have common interests that include North Africa, and what's often referred to, we refer to now as the broader Middle East, it would seem to me shows that this is a welcoming and an open process. And it is not just an initiative that we have for the broader Middle East and North Africa. The same sorts of initiatives we use in our own hemisphere, the Western Hemisphere, encouraging nations to move toward democracy. And in my roughly 20 years of public service at a senior level, I've seen our hemisphere, the Western hemisphere, go from a period in the late '80s where most of the countries were being running by generals and juntas to a point where only one of those nations is now not a democracy: Cuba.

And so we believe that this is the way of the future -- democracy and freedom and modernization and reform -- and it is applicable to all nations. So we're not trying to put anybody in a box.

With respect to the Middle East peace process, the President continues to believe that the plan put forward by Mr. Sharon a few weeks ago that we endorsed provides a unique opportunity for the Israelis and the Palestinians to move forward, move forward on the basis of land-for-peace and the 242 and 338, to move forward within the context of the roadmap. And Mr. Sharon now is reviewing that plan and I know that he'll be presenting a variant of the plan to his cabinet this Sunday, and we will all watch together to see what that variant looks like.

But I think it's an opportunity because settlements are going to be removed, both in Gaza and in the West Bank, and --

QUESTION: But you're supporting the plan ahead of its approval and --

SECRETARY POWELL: I didn't say -- I didn't say that, sir.

QUESTION: -- and --

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, wait a minute. Don't, don't, wait a minute.

QUESTION: If you haven't seen the plan --

SECRETARY POWELL: Don't put words -- please don't put words in my mouth.

QUESTION: Sorry, sir.

SECRETARY POWELL: What I said was we supported the plan that was presented a few weeks ago and that my understanding is that Mr. Sharon is going to provide a variant of that plan on Sunday, and we will all look at it together and see what the plan is. So I cannot support or not support something that we have not yet seen.

What we did do was support the plan that he presented to President Bush a few weeks ago in the Oval Office, and we supported it because it provided, we believe, a new opportunity with the elimination of settlements and the ability to get back in the roadmap and to deal with final status issues by mutual negotiation and agreement between the two parties, the Israelis and the Palestinians.

So we think this is an opportunity that should be seized. Mr. Sharon was not able to get the vote he wished for in his Likud Party and so he has been reexamining the plan, and we will see what he comes forward with on Sunday. And I can't make a judgment on something that we have not yet seen.

QUESTION: I have a quick follow-up --

MR. DENIG: Did you want to take any more, sir?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yeah, I'll take one more.

MR. DENIG: Okay, let's go to Russia here, please. First row.

QUESTION: A quick follow-up on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: He's in charge. (Laughter.) A quick follow-up.

QUESTION: Okay, a very quick follow-up. Sir, my name is Said Arikat from Al Quds daily newspaper. Mr. Sharon already submitted a plan. It calls for the dismantling of three settlements out of 27, which is really contrary to the plan that you endorsed. He's also calling for the destruction of these settlements once they are vacated.

How do you assess --

SECRETARY POWELL: I have seen many reports of his expected plan. I've seen a lot of speculation. I've seen a lot of feelers. I've seen various trial balloons. But, to the best of my knowledge, Mr. Sharon himself has not yet put down a formal plan before his cabinet. And it is my understanding that that is what he is going to do on Sunday.

And after he has done that and we've had a chance to examine it, then we will comment on that plan. The plan we have commented on is the plan that he presented to President Bush when he was here a few weeks ago.


MR. DENIG: Russia.

QUESTION: Pavel Vanachkin, TASS News Agency Russia.

Sir, what do you think about the idea that the Security Council, before approving any new resolution of Iraq, should initially meet with the members of the future Iraqi interim government in New York City?

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: I expect that that will occur. I think it would be good for this new Iraqi interim government, as we're considering the resolution, to present its views on that resolution.

Now, who should come to New York, and considering all the things that this new interim government will have to do while it gets ready to assume sovereignty. But I would fully expect that as soon as this interim government is announced, the leadership of it is announced, we expect that they will reach out to the United Nations so that they can be a part of this process of resolution drafting and writing. They are the ones we are doing this for, so we want to hear from them.

Okay, one more and then I have to go.

MR. DENIG: Last question. China, last row. Second row, rather.

QUESTION: Yes, Secretary, I'm with People's Daily China. I have one question.

What's the U.S. policy towards China, especially on the "One China" policy in Taiwan issue?

Thank you.

SECRETARY POWELL: Our policy remains absolutely unchanged and it's very firm. We believe and support our "One China" policy based on the three communiqués and our obligations under the Taiwan Relations Act. We do not support any independence movement with respect to Taiwan. And we also do not support any unilateral actions on the part of either side that would prejudge the final resolution of this issue as the two sides move forward.

Thank you.

MR. DENIG: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.

Released on May 28, 2004

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