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US Secretary of State Colin Powell on Iraq and the Middle East, December 25

'Powell Rejects Charges of U.S. Unilateralism in Foreign Policy', Cites examples from Iraq and Middle East to North Korea in CNN interview, December 25, 2003.

Following is the transcript of Secretary Powell's interview with Lou Dobbs of CNN on December 12, broadcast December 25:

Department of State
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
December 12, 2003

Interview by Lou Dobbs of CNN
(Aired on December 25, 2003)

MR. DOBBS: Mr. Secretary, you've written that that there is a caricature, particularly amongst our European allies of the Bush Administration as a "shoot from the hip unilateralism." Why is there that impression, and what is there, in your judgment, to refute that in the Administration's policies?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, Lou, let me start with the second part of your question. Let me refute the caricature.

When you look at what this nation has done under President Bush's his leadership over the past three years, there's so much evidence that we want to be part of the international community and we are an effective part of the international community.

We worked with the international community to develop a program to go after the deadliest problem we have on the face of the earth -- HIV/AIDS. We helped Kofi Annan set up a fund. The President's committed another $15 billion working with the international community in generating more money.

When you look at what we've done in foreign policy with respect to our approach to North Korea, we haven't gone off unilaterally and said we're going to invade North Korea or change the regime in North Korea -- different tools for different problems. In this case, we are working with all of North Korea's neighbors to create a denuclearized peninsula.

It's slow, grinding, diplomatic work, but that's what the President is committed to. And if you'll look at where people think we have a unilateral -- take Iraq, the -- case number one, the -- Exhibit A, as everyone says; it is the international community that for 12 years said to Saddam Hussein, "Tell us what you're doing. Stop what you're doing. You are in violation of the will of the international community," not the will of the United States, but the will of the international community as expressed in resolution after resolution.

And when the President finally determined that something had to be done about this in 2002, he didn't say, "Let's go invade," he went to the United Nations. He went to New York on September 12th of 2002 and said to the United Nations General Assembly, "We must act against this danger, against this threat." And then, over the next seven weeks, I worked on a resolution with my Security Council colleagues that pulled the Security Council together.

Now unfortunately, the consensus we created, the unanimous agreement we had on the Security Council, didn't last through the spring because people were unwilling to impose the consequences on Iraq that Iraq had invited upon itself. And so at that point, President Bush felt it was important for our safety and for the safety of the region in the world to act, and he acted with likeminded nations.

And we removed that terrible regime. And if you think anybody in this Administration, or anybody in the Coalition is going to apologize for the fact that Saddam Hussein is no longer sitting on a throne in Iraq, we won't.

The people of Iraq have a better future ahead of them now, and it was a coalition that came together. Was it under a UN mandate? I think it was. I think the resolution that was passed covered what we did. Some would disagree with that, but the point is, it was not just the United States acting alone.

A lot of nations realized this was a danger that had to be dealt with.

MR. DOBBS: Mr. Secretary, you've also called upon NATO to expand its role and to apply its resources and forces in Iraq in support of the Coalition and the reconstruction of Iraq. Have we reached a point where we can no longer look to NATO or to the European Union monolithically because of what appears to be a countervailing force represented by France and in tandem with Germany?

SECRETARY POWELL: Not at all. After 9/11 -- if I can go back that far -- the very next day, NATO invoked the Mutual Defense Clause, Article 5 of the Washington Treaty. And everybody came together behind what we might have to do in response to 9/11.

We went into Afghanistan. And right now in Afghanistan, NATO, as an alliance is in charge of the Security Assistance Force, and they're looking to expand their role in Afghanistan. The entire alliance is doing that.

With respect to Iraq, both I and Secretary [of Defense] Don Rumsfeld have been speaking to our colleagues in NATO in recent weeks, and in my presentations to the North Atlantic Council about ten days ago, everyone heard the pitch that maybe NATO should play a role in Iraq, and nobody said, "No, we can't consider it."

Now, what role to be played in Iraq remains to be determined. Whether or not NATO might, at some point in the future, take over the zone of the Polish division or might do something else, or might take over a broader role and mission is to be determined. We'll have to talk about that. But nobody in NATO is now saying, "We can't go do anything in Iraq at any point in the future." I think this shows that the alliance can come together.

MR. DOBBS: Is it likely, in your judgment that it will, on the issue of Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is premature to say what the alliance might do next year. I think they're waiting to see how the political process unfolds, but let me make this point, Lou. Of the 26 nations in NATO or about to accede to NATO membership, 18 of them have troops on the ground in Iraq working alongside Ambassador Bremer and General Sanchez and General Abizaid. Now is that NATO in Iraq, or not?

When 18 of the 26 nations have contributed and many other nations not in NATO have contributed, it seems to me, we have drawn on the experience, and training, and partnerships and friendships that we have developed over the years within the NATO alliance.

MR. DOBBS: That's really what I was going to, Mr. Secretary, in that there is a large number of European countries represented, but not NATO itself. And again, absent in Iraq, France and Germany.


MR. DOBBS: Is that a condition that you think will exist for some time?

SECRETARY POWELL: Both the French and the Germans are watching. They are anxious to see a political process in place that rapidly leads to return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people. They were very much opposed to our actions in Iraq, so I could not now expect them just in a matter of a couple of months to say, "Well, we have completely changed our view. We want to get involved now."

They want to see more on the political process. What's important is that both France and Germany now believe along with us that we should be committed to reconstruction and the development of a democracy in Iraq. What role they might play in the future that is considerably different than the role they played in recent months remains to be seen. But I think there is every prospect that NATO could play a role in Iraq as an alliance, and not just as individual members of the alliance.

But as an alliance, I believe it is quite possible for NATO to play a role either by taking over a zone or some other role, as yet to be determined, sometime next year. But I can't tell you that for sure. The thing about alliances is that the NATO and the European Union work by consensus -- everybody has to agree. And until you get that agreement, then you have to essentially find workarounds or you find likeminded nations who are willing to participate. It's not unusual. It happened in Kosovo. It's happened in other operations that have been conducted as we defended our interests around the world.

MR. DOBBS: Likeminded consensus has been most elusive on the issue of Israel and Palestine, the Israeli and Palestinian conflict: The Sharon Government -- obviously very upset with your support of the Geneva Initiative; the issue of the fence, the wall, if you will -- the security fence -- that the Sharon Government insists on extending. Where do we go from here?

SECRETARY POWELL: The only support I have given to any plan is the plan that we have put forward with our Quartet partners: The European Union, the Russian Federation and the United Nations. And that plan is executed by the roadmap. That's where the plan is documented. And the plan flows from the vision that the President put before the world in his famous speech of June 24th of last year where he called for the creation of a Palestinian state to live side by side in peace with Israel.

We haven't changed. That's what we support. I see no reason, however, that I, as the American Secretary of State, should not listen to other ideas of dedicated people who have experience in these matters. And so I met with the authors of the Geneva accord, and I met with another group of leaders who have a different approach to the problem. There's no reason I shouldn't meet with them. I know it might have upset some members of the Sharon Government, but it's my responsibility to listen to ideas, and I welcome those ideas. I don't necessarily support them, but I welcome them. And if they add to the debate on this most -- to solve -- that will help solve this most difficult issue between the Israelis and Palestinians, I think I have an obligation to hear that.

MR. DOBBS: We have called the negotiations about Israel and about the Palestinians, and as you say, the President setting forward, setting forth a two-state solution -- we've called it a peace process for a half-century. It's been a half-century of conflict and war, brutality and violence. Is it time to quit calling it a peace process? Is it time to really think that we can see a solution as a result of U.S. leadership, in particular?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think a solution is still possible, and I mean it's been a long and tortured history to this whole process, but peace was achieved between Israel and Egypt. Peace was achieved between Israel and Jordan. And what we have to do now is to find a way to achieve peace between Israel and the Palestinian population of the occupied territories in Gaza.

Well, there is no alternative. People talk about unilateral action. We cannot support unilateral action on part of one or the other party. Sooner or later they will have to find a way to negotiate agreement between the two of them so that two states can arise. One already exists -- the Jewish state of Israel. We want another state to arise -- the state of Palestine for the Palestinian people. And we can't lose that dream, and there's no reason we should give that dream up.

We know it ultimately will take difficult compromises on both sides, good faith negotiations between the two, and the leadership position of the United States is critical here. And we will play our leadership role as the President did when he gave his 24 June speech and when he stood up at Aqaba with those leaders and blessed the roadmap.

The fence is a problem, as the President has said. Israel quite rightly wants to protect its population, and it believes the fence does that. Our concern is when the fence goes deeply into Palestinian areas and starts to create conditions on the ground with the fence that might make it more difficult to reach a solution.

MR. DOBBS: Secretary of State Powell, we thank you.


Source: US State Department, Washington File, http://usinfo.state.gov.

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