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Powell and British Foreign Secretary Straw Hold Press Conference

Aired January 31, 2002 - 16:59   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: We take you now quickly to the State Department, where Secretary Colin Powell has been meeting with the British foreign secretary, Jack Straw.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: .... other issues to include the detainees at Guantanamo, which I briefed the foreign secretary on the status of them and make sure that there was no question in anyone's mind that they're receiving the best care that they can receive, as one would expect from the United States.

And we also talked about other matters of interest with respect to NATO and the upcoming ministerial in Reykjavik as well as getting ready for the Prague summit in the fall.

So it's a great pleasure to have the foreign secretary here, and I would invite him to say a word or two.

JACK STRAW, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY: Thank you very much, Secretary Powell. It's a real pleasure for me to be back here in Washington for these discussions.

Secretary Powell's already expanded on the agenda for our discussions. One of the key points of this was the future of Afghanistan. Hamid Karzai, who has been present here in Washington for three days, I saw him in London earlier today, just before I left for Washington. And he then went on to have a discussion with our Prime Minister Blair during the rest of the day.

And what we're discussing with him is both the military position in Afghanistan but also this much wider agenda of measures which we all have to take to assist Afghanistan in reconstruction.

I also expressed my profound appreciation to Secretary Powell, the president of the United States and the people of the United States for the resolute stand which they took from the 11th of September to ensure that there was justice for those who had been killed and injured on the 11th of September and also to lay the foundations for a much safer world.

Thank you.

Questions?

QUESTION: Thank you. Could I ask you both a question about the issue of Zimbabwe, the new press laws that have just been passed, restricting the freedom of the press? What is both of your response?

STRAW: We discussed Zimbabwe and the possibility of sanctions being imposed by the European Union. I discussed the matter, so far as the United States sanctions is concerned.

I wholly condemn the passage of these press laws. I find it almost impossible to comprehend how free and fair elections can be held in Zimbabwe when such laws have been passed. And that will be a matter which will have to be weighed very carefully in the balance by the European Union to decide whether the sanctions, which, in principle, were decided upon earlier this week, ought to be triggered.

POWELL: I certainly share the secretary's view. I have spoken out strongly in the past with respect to the actions that President Mugabe is taking within Zimbabwe. And I also condemn the press law, as the secretary did.

And we're in close coordination with our British colleagues and with others as to what action might be appropriate as we move forward.

QUESTION: Our Mr. Secretary first, what can you say about the Iranian involvement in Afghanistan? There are reports that they're training people for an insurrection against the Karzai government.

And also, to Mr. Straw, some of our European allies are said to be a bit uncomfortable with our president's terming "the axis of evil" to certain countries, Iran included.

POWELL: Well, we are watching Iranian actions very closely. The Iranians played a helpful role at the Bonn meetings, which produced the agreement that provided for the interim authority to take over again in Kabul. And they have also played a helpful role in the reconstruction conference that was held in Japan not too long ago.

But we are also watching, with great interest, their activities in the western part of the country, the activities of parts of the Iranian government that might be trying to exercise undue influence over the new government.

And so, when we detect those types of activities, we call it to the attention of Iranian authorities through a variety of means to let them know that this is not the time, this is not the time for the great game to start again, that all of Afghanistan's neighbors should work together now not to achieve new levers of influence over Afghan but to work together to provide hope to the Afghan people and bring that hope into being, make it a reality, and not do things which tend to destabilize or in some way support any one faction against the goal of a representative national government.

STRAW: We share the profound concern of the United States administration about terrorism where ever it occurs and the need for firm action to be taken in respect to that terrorism. And that is nothing new, and in this respect, I speak for the British government and for the British government alone. It's for other European nations to express their own views, but this is our view. And we're very clear about this.

So far as Iran is concerned, it's a matter I talked to Hamid Karzai this morning in very similar terms to Secretary Powell, and their view and our view is that we should stay engaged with the reformist government, with the things for which we're grateful; at the same time, send out strong messages to other parts of the governments of Iran about actions and support which we regard as unacceptable.

And one of the very interesting passages in President Bush's speech yesterday in respect to Iran was distinguishing pretty clearly between the different nature of authority inside Iran. There is a reformist elected government, and there is also other parts of the government which are not elected, which exercise strong control over the security and defense apparatus.

POWELL: Thank you.

STRAW: Thank you very much.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Wolf Blitzer in Washington.

We just heard Secretary of State Colin Powell and the visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw answer some questions. They're meeting clearly a somewhat different tone from the secretary of state as far as Iran is concerned, going out of his way apparently to praise Iran, some cooperation that Iran has showed in working with the Afghan interim government in Bonn, the helpful role, he said, the Iranian government played in the reconstruction efforts under way, international reconstruction efforts under way in Afghanistan.

But once again, signaling that the United States is watching Iran very carefully. The United States also concerned of what he called parts of Iran, which seemed to be undermining peace around the world. All this in the aftermath of President Bush's State of the Union address in which he described Iran, Iraq and North Korea as "an axis of evil." Secretary of State Colin Powell once again and the visiting British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

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