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Colin Powell Speaks at State Department

Aired January 27, 2003 - 15:01   ET


ARTHEL NEVILLE, HOST, TALKBACK LIVE: All right. We are going to go now to the State Department's briefing room to listen to Colin Powell's comments.

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: ... Drs. Blix and ElBaradei provided the United Nations Security Council their 60- day reports on inspection activity in Iraq. We listened carefully as the inspectors reported that Iraq has not provided the active, immediate and unconditional cooperation that the council demanded in U.N. Resolution 1441.

As Dr. Blix said, quote, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it," end quote.

Let me repeat, because this is the essence of the problem. Dr. Blix said, "Iraq appears not to have come to a genuine acceptance, not even today, of the disarmament that was demanded of it."

1441 is all about the disarmament demanded of Iraq. The inspectors' findings came as no surprise. For 11 years before 1441, Saddam Hussein's regime refused to make the strategic decision, the political decision to disarm itself of weapons of mass destruction and to comply with the world's demands.

To this day, the Iraq regime continues to defy the will of the United Nations. The Iraq regime has responded to 1441 with empty claims, empty declarations and empty gestures. It has not given the inspectors and the international community any concrete information in answer to a host of key questions.

Where is the missing anthrax? This is not just a question of historical curiosity, it is essential for us to know what happened -- this deadly material.

Where is the VX? Also not just a trivial question. We must know what happened to this deadly material.

Where are the chemical and biological munitions?

Where are the mobile biological laboratories? If the Iraqi regime was truly committed to disarmament, we wouldn't be looking for these mobile labs, they'd drive them up and park them in front of UNMOVIC headquarters for inspection. Why is Iraq violating the restrictions on ballistic missiles? Why is it violating the ban on missiles with a range of more than 150 kilometers?

Where are the credible, verifiable answer to all of the other disarmament questions compiled by the previous inspectors?

Today, we heard that the inspectors have not been able to interview any Iraqi in private. We heard that the inspectors have not been allowed to employ aerial surveillance. Why not? If Iraq was committed to disarmament, if Iraq understood what 1441 was all about, they would willingly allow the kind of surveillance, they would willingly allow people to be interviewed without minders, without fear of retribution.

We have heard that they have still not received -- the inspectors have still not received a full list of Iraqi personnel involved with weapons of mass destruction. If Iraq no longer has weapons of mass destruction, they should willingly give the names of all who are involved in their previous programs to the inspectors for examination and interview.

The inspectors told us that their efforts have been impeded by a swarm of Iraqi minders. Why, if Iraq was committed to disarmament, would they be going to these efforts to deceive and to keep the inspectors from doing their work? Passive cooperation is not what was called for in 1441.

The inspectors have also told us that they have evidence that Iraq has moved or hidden items at sites just prior to inspection visits. That's what the inspectors say, not what Americans say, not what American intelligence says; but we certainly corroborate all of that. But this is information from the inspectors.

And the inspectors have caught the Iraqis concealing top secret information in the private residence. You all saw the pictures of that information being brought out. Why? Why, if Iraq was committed to disarmament as required under 1441, would be finding this kind of information squirreled away in private homes for any other reason than to keep it away from the inspectors?

The list of unanswered questions and the many ways Iraq has frustrating the work of the inspectors goes on and on.

Iraq's refusal to disarm in compliance with Resolution 1441 still threatens international peace and security. And Iraq's defiance continues to challenge the relevance and credibility of the Security Council.

The international community's goal was, is and remains Iraq's disarmament. The Security Council and the international community must stand behind Resolution 1441.

Iraq continues to conceal quantities -- vast quantities of highly lethal materiel and weapons to deliver it. It could kill thousands upon thousands of men, women and children if Saddam Hussein decides to use these against those men, women and children or, just as frightening, to provide them to others who might use such weapons.

Iraq must not be allowed to keep weapons of mass terror and the capacity to produce more. The world community must send the clear message to Iraq that the will of the international community must be obeyed.

Last September the United Nations acted at the request of the United States. We acted through 1441 with the hope -- the president had the hope, the other members of the Security Council who voted unanimously for this resolution had the hope, that Iraq would take this one last chance presented to it by the international community to disarm peacefully.

And remember the key elements of that resolution. Iraq has been and continues to be in material breach of all of its earlier obligations. We are giving, the resolution said, one more chance to Iraq.

We put a firm list of conditions for Iraq to meet and what they should allow the inspectors to do to assist them in that disarmament.

And let's not forget the vital part of the resolution that comes toward the end: There would be serious consequences for continued Iraqi violation of its obligation. Those serious consequences are the lever that was needed to get the inspectors in, to get the inspectors to be able to do their work, which was to assist Iraq in disarmament.

Iraqi intransigence brings us to a situation where we see that regime's continuing to confront the fundamental choice between compliance with 1441 and the consequences of its failure to disarm.

Even at this late date, the United States hopes for a peaceful solution. And a peaceful solution is possible only if Iraq disarms itself with the help of the inspectors.

The issue is not how much more time the inspectors need to search in the dark. It is how much more time Iraq should be given to turn on the lights and to come clean. And the answer is not much more time. Iraq's time for choosing peaceful disarmament is fast coming to an end.

Thank you, and I'm prepared for your questions.

QUESTION: General Powell, it is my understanding that although you guys believe, or are convinced that Iraq is neither cooperating nor complying with the resolution, you're not yet prepared to go to the Security Council with the serious consequences part. Is that correct? And if it is, can you explain why...

POWELL: Our plan is straightforward. We passed 1441 with a unanimous vote in the Security Council; 15 nations acted. Now that we have received this report from the two chief inspectors, I think it is important for us to ask questions of the inspectors.

That is happening this afternoon in New York, and it will also happen on Wednesday, as members of the Security Council pose questions to Dr. Blix and to Dr. ElBaradei. The president will be in touch with fellow heads of state and government about this matter. I will be in touch with my colleagues in the Security Council.

And after these consultations are completed -- and you know Prime Minister Blair is coming on Friday. Mr. Berlusconi is coming this week as well to see President Bush. And after we have had these consultations and considered the entire situation and have a little time pass -- Security Council members need time to consult with their capitals on what they have heard and seen today. And when those consultations are through and the president had a chance to discuss this with his fellow heads of state and government and I've done my consultations, we will determine what the next steps are.

QUESTION: You, sort of, laid it out pretty clearly, but I wondered, does this report -- which I'm sure you anticipated -- does this move the administration closer to a showdown with Iraq? And if you care to -- and I'd understand if you chose not to -- have you got a response to the Iraqi foreign minister who doesn't think you tell the truth?

POWELL: With respect to the first part of your question, time is running out. We've made it clear from the very beginning that we could not allow the process of inspections to string us out forever.

There are some who would like to take months. Dr. ElBaradei made a reference today that he needed a few more months.

But make careful note of the context in which he was making that observation, and that is if there was active cooperation on the part of the Iraqis. If there isn't that kind of active cooperation, you could be sitting on the things you know and looking in the things you know about, but there may be many other things that you don't know about that that you're unable to get information on.

And so inspections only work in the presence of cooperation, active cooperation, and a willingness on the part of the side to participate in the disarmament. And we have examples of this in South Korea and Kazakhstan, Ukraine and other nations that have gone down this road.

With respect to the Iraqi foreign minister calling me a liar, this will not cause me any distress or loss of sleep.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, you've spoken, in Davos most recently, about a connection between Iraq and terrorist groups, including al Qaeda. Are you saying there's evidence that that has happened in the past or is there evidence currently that there's still a connection?

POWELL: I think we have said consistently all along, through last fall and into this year, that we have seen contacts and connections between the Iraqi regime and terrorist organizations, to include al Qaeda. As we've been able to focus on this more and look back in time, I think we're more confident of that assessment.

And we see no reason not to believe that such contacts and the presence of al Qaeda elements or individuals in Iraq is a reasonable assumption, and we have some basis for that assumption. And the information that we can divulge in greater detail, we will be divulging in the days ahead.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, can you say whether you are willing -- whether the U.S. is willing to give the inspectors a couple more of weeks, maybe a month, but no more than that in order to complete their work?

POWELL: We are going to do exactly what I described earlier: consult with leaders around the world. President Bush has been on the phone this morning with President Aznar. He'll be on the phone and he'll be meeting with others. I'll be doing likewise.

And when all those consultations are finished, we will let it be known what are next steps are going to be.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have a two-part question for you, sir. Up until a week ago yesterday, you were a strong advocate for a diplomatic solution to the Iraqi situation.

POWELL: I still am.

QUESTION: In fact, to the point where many of my brethren even labeled you a dove. But...

POWELL: I've been labeled many things.

QUESTION: As of the talk shows a week ago yesterday, last Sunday, you started talking tough and you've been talking very tough ever since, in Switzerland and again today. One, what changed your mind?

And then I have a follow-up question, if I may.

POWELL: It is has been clear from the very beginning -- you know, I am one of the principal authors of 1441. And for better or worse, I can take some credit for having been one of its champions as we drove it through the United Nations Security Council process for a period of seven and a half weeks.

And we always insisted on three elements to that. One, Iraq is in material breach. Two, this is their last chance; there have to be serious consequences, and those serious consequences might be use of force. And you've heard me say that repeatedly, repeatedly. And I've also said that if the international community, through the U.N., when the times comes, does not wish to use force, the United States reserves its right, as a sovereign nation, to make a judgment, within this clear record of violation, to use force alongside like-minded nations who might wish to be part of such a coalition.

So I have been consistent throughout this entire process.

And as I've watched the process unfold, I have watched Iraq go by every exit ramp -- diplomatic exit ramp that was put there for them. They could have made a full, complete and accurate declaration in December, which would have given us some confidence that they were serious about disarmament. Instead, they gave us 12,200 pages of nothing very useful.

The inspectors said that today. There was nothing new. They added nothing to the body of knowledge. They tried to deceive the inspectors, they tried to deceive us. One ramp gone by.

We have watched subsequently as they have kept our reconnaissance planes from doing the work that could be helpful to the inspectors. They have done all of the things that I have described and you have heard other of my colleagues describe -- Deputy Secretary Armitage, Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz -- last week.

And so we are getting closer and closer to the point where the Security Council is going to have to look at the options that it anticipated it would have to look at when 1441 was originally passed.

And so hang any label you want on me. I'm a great believer in diplomacy and a great believer in finding a peaceful solution. But I also recognize that when somebody will not accept a peaceful solution by doing their part of creating a peaceful solution, one must never rule out the use of force to implement the will of the international community, but more importantly to protect our people and to protect the world.

QUESTION: Whether it's a few weeks or it's a month, what do you think of the idea of one final deadline, one final exit ramp for Iraq to answer the questions that you laid out at this conference?

POWELL: Iraq could answer this this afternoon, if it chose to. Rather, the Iraqi foreign minister spent his time calling me a liar.

I'll stick with what I said earlier. We will have our discussions and consultations this week, and then we will announce next steps at an appropriate time.

QUESTION: Regarding the Wednesday debate of the Security Council, what are the objectives of your delegation going to be going into the debate?

POWELL: It's a consultation, really, and it began to some extent this afternoon. But our delegation, Ambassador Negroponte and I think the other delegations, will be putting questions to the inspectors.

We have a number of issues that we want to raise with the inspectors that perhaps might indicate areas they want to look in and give us answers to questions we have about the work they've done so far.

That is really the purpose of these consultations. These consultations this week are not for the purpose of determining what the next steps should be. I think we'll need more work and heads of state and government talking to one another, and foreign ministers talking with each other, before one would make a judgment as to what those next steps should be.

So I think this is an opportunity for the 15 members of the council to learn more about what the inspectors have found out. Keep in mind there are new members on the council, there's been some changeover since 1441 was passed, and it gives these new elected members an opportunity to learn more about the process, about the spirit and intent of 1441, and to ask question of Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei.

QUESTION: The Germans are calling -- as the president next month, are calling for another report on February 14th. Do you think this is just a waste of time? Do you think it's another delaying tactic by the Germans, by the French to say that they're not ready to make a decision?

POWELL: I wouldn't characterize it that way.

It was always part of the process that Dr. Blix and Dr. ElBaradei would report on a regular basis to the council. They reported in early December. They were there not too long ago. 27 January was the first report really required directly by 1441, and I think it's quite appropriate for the new president of the council -- Germany it takes over on the 1st of February -- to call for reports as the presidency or other members of the council see fit.

But what we can't do is just keep picking the can down the road in the absence of a change in policy and attitude, and go from passive to more than active cooperation -- not cooperation alone, but a demonstrated willingness on the part of Iraq to participate in the disarmament and not try to frustrate the disarmament effort.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, as impassioned as you are, and as adamant as you are that you see in the inspectors' report examples of Iraqi non-compliance, many of your colleagues on the Security Council feel equally as strong that there are cases of compliance. The French, the Germans, the Russians have all come out today saying that they think the inspectors should be given more time.

How are you and the president planning to convince your colleagues and dissuade them -- persuade them to...

POWELL: What we're going to do is consult with our colleagues. And I'm sure that the president will be talking to leaders of all these countries, and I'll be talking to the ministers.

We will consult, just as we did when 1441 was put together in the first instance, and try to come to a collective judgment as to what should be the next steps. And as I say for about the fifth time, in due course those next steps will be announced.

Yes, there are disagreements. There are some who are satisfied with passive cooperation at this point.

Passive cooperation is not what 1441 was all about. Dr. Blix, it seems to me, made it rather clear today that he is not getting the kind of cooperation, and Iraq has not made the fundamental choice it has to make that it is going to be disarmed.

Thank you. NEVILLE: We've been listen to Secretary of State Colin Powell addressing the press hours after chief weapons inspector Hans Blix submitted his latest report to the U.N.


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