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Guinean Foreign Minister, Powell Speak to Reporters

Aired March 10, 2003 - 12:50   ET


WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: As Iraq's deadline keeps ticking closer, the United States and Britain are unleashing tough diplomatic moves to try to sway the remaining undecided U.N. Security Council members.
For our one-on-one segment, we're joined live from London with James Rubin. He's a former State Department spokesman, a former assistant secretary of state during the Clinton administration, worked for Madeleine Albright, both in Washington, as well as at the United Nations.

Jamie, thank you very much for joining us.

It looks like the U.S. and Britain are pretty much on the same page, although I sense there's still some modest but potentially significant differences as well. Do you sense that there are some nuances there?

JAMES RUBIN, FMR. STATE DEPT. SPOKESMAN: Well, I do. I think the British want this resolution a lot more than the Americans, and they're, therefore, willing perhaps to make some last-minute adjustments, maybe even add some timelines, perhaps add some specific benchmarks for what Iraq has to do by this deadline, and those are not the kind of things the americans want in this resolution. They want a clear statement that Iraq has failed to take its final opportunity, and if the British start negotiating too hard, in order to get over nine or 10 votes, by talking to the Chileans, talking to some of the Africans about the kind of compromise that a lot of U.N. officials have been talking about, the Americans may get a little out of sorts.

GERGEZ: Jamie, stand by for one second. Secretary of State Colin Powell is speaking to reporters at the state department. I want to listen in.


COLIN POWELL, SECY. OF STATE: ... constructive conversation. I want to thank my colleague for coming down.

FRANCOIS FALL, GUINEAN FOREIGN MINISTER: Thank you. I just came to Washington today to meet my good friend, Secretary Colin Powell. We had a very fruitful discussion. As you know, the decision of the council is very critical. We are trying to see all the parties to work on the subject, to try to solve the problem, and then to make a work, to give (ph) unity to the council. That's why I'm here today.

(SPEAKING IN FRENCH) GERGEZ: Francois Fall, the foreign minister of Guinea, one of the six undecided members of the U.N. Security Council, being personally received by the Secretary of State Colin Powell over at the State Department. They're going to have lunch. They've been meeting, the secretary of state clearly anxious to try to convince this important Security Council member to go ahead and support the U.S.

Let's listen in to this next question.

QUESTION: Can this be solved without the use of force? I understand you want Iraq to disarm, but can it be done without a meaningful threat of force?

FALL: We are trying to solve the problem peacefully as much as our goal. Our goal is first for Iraq to respect all of the resolutions of the Security Council, and also we are trying to work to do that peacefully. That's our main goal.

POWELL: Thank you.


BLITZER: One more question, the secretary of state and the foreign minister of Guinea refusing to answer a few more questions. Clearly, the Secretary of State Colin Powell anxious to get on with his day. He's been very busy with phone calls and other meetings.

Let's get back to London. James Rubin once again standing by the former assistant secretary of state. This kind of effort to try to get a little bit more time.

As you say, the British government may be open to an additional compromise, more so than the Bush administration. It's going to be hard, Jamie, for the Bush administration to give them too much more time, given the very public stance taken by the president.

RUBIN: Well that's exactly right. I think that's where -- I don't expect this to happen, but if there is any space between London and Washington, it's on final last-minute negotiating room to bring on some other countries. I don't see the Bush administration supporting that. Perhaps they're going to let the British see what they can achieve. And if they really can achieve some sort of unity in the council or get a situation where the French and the Russians would be all alone in voting against it, then they might consider it.

But at this point, the way the votes look, the administration and the British would be lucky to get 10 votes. The Russians have now said flatly they're going to vote no. The French have said, you know, almost the same thing. And it doesn't look like, unless there's some real negotiating room, that they're going to get a resolution passed.

BLITZER: Jamie, Secretary Powell went back to the microphones. Let's listen in.

POWELL: And means of that type that allow you to make your point. And so I'm not in competition with anybody. I'm trying to do my job the way I think I can do it best.

BLITZER: The secretary of state saying he's not in competition with the French foreign minister. The French Foreign Minister Dominique De Villepen going to Africa this week to personally lobby for support those three African countries, Angola, Cameroon and Guinea on the U.N. Security Council.

It looks like the Russians are seriously thinking about actually vetoing this resolution. Have you heard, Jamie, these rumors out there, these suggestion, that the Russians and the Chinese may actually come up with an alternative resolution to go up against the U.S.-British-Spanish resolution?

RUBIN: Well, I have heard such rumors. I don't expect that to happen. I don't think they think they can muster substantial majority of members.

The key point is the middle six countries, not the U.S. and the British on one side, the French, Russians and Chinese on the other, they want to find an agreement. And they do not want to be put in the position between choosing between the big powers. Some of them are probably asking themselves, what was the value of getting on the Security Council if all that's going to happen is to get some big powers mad at them, lose foreign aid, lose support from either France on one side, or the United States on the other?

So I don't see any real chance of the Russians and the Chinese coming up with anything that's put to a vote. The only real vote is going to be on the U.S./U.K. text, possibly amended again. But if they don't think they have the votes, I wouldn't rule out at the last minute they decide not to push it to a vote. Because if they don't get a majority, if they get search or eight votes, and all of the rest vote no, including the Russians, the French, the Chinese, I'm not sure that helps Tony Blair very much, and the administration probably never wanted this thing in the first place.

BLITZER: James Rubin in London, thanks very much, Jamie, for that information. We'll continue this conversation on another occasion.


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