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This Is the Time to Move in a New Direction

This Is the Time to Move in a New Direction

Interview of Secretary of State Colin L. Powell with Christian Malar of France 3 TV Corporation at the State Department, Washington, D.C., March 14, 2002, 11:10 a.m. EST. (*)

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, we have the feeling today that it's a real tragic situation between Israel and the Palestinians. We get the impression also that neither Sharon nor Arafat can or want to stop violence. So what can we expect from America at the highest level to try to bring these two men to the negotiating table ?

Secretary Powell: Well, I think both of them realize that the policies that are being followed now will not lead to peace, will not lead to the establishment of a Palestinian state that can live side by side with Israel. And so we are working with both gentlemen now to persuade them that this is the time to move in a new direction, to let General Zinni bring them together and get the Tenet work plan started.

The Tenet work plan, as you know, is an American plan that we worked out with the two sides, they agreed to last year, as a way of getting into the Mitchell Plan, which is also sponsored by the United States. And I hope that General Zinni will be successful on this, his third trip to the region, to get this work plan started, because this work plan will create a cease-fire, it will allow confidence-building measures to take place, and it will lead to negotiations that will find a political solution under UN Resolutions 242 and 338.

President Bush has been committed to finding a solution to this terrible crisis since the first day of his administration. He has remained involved for the last 13 months. We will continue to remain involved.

Christian Malar: Does the Saudi plan, or Saudi vision, looks the best approach right now to try to solve, or to try to find a global peace agreement between Israel, the Palestinians and the Arab world, the Arab nations? And does the Saudi and the United States are not the only two countries being able to exert the real pressures upon the main protagonists of the crisis?

Secretary Powell: Well, the Saudi vision is a good vision, and we're very happy that Crown Prince Abdullah put this vision out, because it says that at the end of this process, Arabs must learn to live in peace with the state of Israel, and recognizes right to exist and have normal relations with -- normalized relations, meaning embassies and diplomatic relations. This is good.

The difficult issue with the Saudi vision is what boundaries will these two states agree to? The Saudi vision is the pre-1967 boundaries; 242 and 338 also has to be taken into account, the UN resolutions. That has to be negotiated between the parties.

But the vision isn't enough. You need a plan to get to that vision. And that plan is what the Americans are trying to do with General Zinni, with the Tenet work plan, and then into the Mitchell process. And we believe that all of this will fit together, and we hope that at the Arab Summit that's coming up, all of the Arab nations will support the Saudi vision. And we hope that we'll make progress with General Zinni's visit so that the actual work on the ground starts to move in the direction of the vision put forward by the Crown Prince.

Christian Malar: Today we have the impression that your administration is still determined to attack Iraq, get rid of Saddam Hussein. So are you going to attack Iraq? Is it upon your plans right now ?

Secretary Powell: We have no attack plan on the desk of the President of the United States. I have not made such a recommendation yet, nor has the Secretary of Defense. We are determined that the world should come together and see the danger that this regime presents to the world. Saddam Hussein has made it clear that he is trying to develop weapons of mass destruction. This should be of concern to all of us, not just to America, but to France, to England, to Germany, to all of the states in the Persian Gulf area -- to Israel, all of us. This is a regime that has used these weapons against its own people and against its neighbors in the past. And the United States believes that it is doing a service to the rest of the world by pointing out clearly the nature of this regime and by our willingness to look at all the options that are available to cause this nation to stop developing weapons of mass destruction and to start dealing with the problems of its people.

So this isn't the United States being unilateralist and looking for a place to have a war. This is the United States clearly pointing out to the rest of the world that we should all have a problem with the nature of this regime, and all of us should work together to get the UN inspectors back in and to examine all the options available to the civilized world to deal with the uncivilized behavior of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi regime.

Christian Malar: And what about Iran? Do you have plans concerning Iran, which belongs to the evil axis? We have information according to which bin Laden, Mullah Omar and Al-Zawari could be harbored by the Ayatollah hierarchy.

Secretary Powell: I have no information to suggest that either Mullah Omar or Usama bin Laden are in Iran. Our relationship with Iran has been a difficult one for many years. We are watching a political battle take place within Iran now between moderate forces and extremist forces. Our concern with Iran is that they continue to sponsor terrorist activity, and they continue to try to develop nuclear weapons and weapons of mass destruction, and the means to deliver these weapons of mass destruction. That should be of concern to all of us, not just the United States. It should be of concern to Europe; it should be of concern to the moderate Arab nations in the region. It's of concern to Israel.

So all of us should be worried about these activities on the part of some elements of Iranian political thinking, and some elements of the Iranian Government. And so we believe that, once again, by identifying Iran as one of these nations we call along the "axis of evil," we are doing a service. We are pointing out clearly the nature of these regimes.

But at the same time, the United States is very careful about how we use our armed forces, how we use the power that we have. We do it with deliberateness, and we have no plans on the President's desk to attack Iran. We are in touch with the Iranians through various means, and we hope that they will come to their senses in due course and follow a moderate course which gets rid of the support of terrorist activity and stops developing weapons of mass destruction.

Christian Malar: In Afghanistan, the situation is far from being stabilized. You still have to fight against Taliban, some al-Qaida people in the eastern part of the country. There are still factions fighting together between warlords. Are you going to keep the troops there? Are you worried about the future of the area?

Secretary Powell: Well, we are going to keep our troops there until we have completely pulled up all of the roots of the Taliban and al-Qaida. We are going to continue to support the Interim Authority that has taken over, and the new government when it comes in after the grand assembly later this spring. We remain committed to an Afghanistan that lives in peace with its neighbors, that provides for its people, that is a multi-ethnic society with a multi-ethnic government.

What we see in Afghanistan are many challenges ahead, but we should not ignore the fact of the success we have had in Afghanistan over the last six months: the Taliban gone, al-Qaida no longer able to operate, a new government in place, reconstruction activities under way, the international community coming together to put in place an international security force, but also to put in place the money and the non-governmental organizations and the private organizations needed to help rebuild this country, reconstruct this country and to give the people of Afghanistan hope for the future.

We should be proud of what we have all done -- America, France, Great Britain, Arab nations. So many countries have come together in this great international coalition to help Afghanistan, and also to continue this campaign against terrorism.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, what's going wrong with the French Government, with Mr. Védrine, who keeps reproaching your administration with having a unilateralist approach of foreign affairs? Are there other bones of contention? What's going on between the two countries?

Secretary Powell: My good friend and colleague Hubert Védrine and I occasionally have exchanges -- he has characterized them as "manly exchanges." This is good. The United States and France have been friends and allies for so many years, and we respect one another. We occasionally have differences of opinion. And because we are such friends, and both of our peoples tend to be outspoken, we tend not to hold our opinions back. From time to time we have disagreements, and we express them openly and candidly.

Hubert has recently characterized some of our positions as perhaps being simplistic and being unilateralist. I have returned the favor by suggesting that what is sometimes seen as American simplistic activity and unilateralist activity is really clear direct thinking, where we call things the way we see them. That tends to be the way the United States acts. We don't shield ourselves from what we believe is the truth.

And because we sometimes take a position that might not be what all of our friends in Europe agree with, that doesn't mean we're being unilateralist or we are being simplistic; it just means we have a different point of view. And so I have suggested to Hubert that we should continue to dialogue and consult with one another on a frequent basis to make sure we understand each other's point of view, and I look forward to seeing him in the not-too-distant future.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, merci. Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary of the States, and I wish you all the best to you in particular, and to your administration.

Secretary Powell: Thank you, Christian.

Christian Malar: God bless you. Thank you.

11:20 a.m. EST

Related Documents:

(*) Courtesy Christian Malar, Editor-in-Chief and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent, France 3 Television Corporation, Paris.


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Directeur de la publication : Joël-François Dumont
Comité de rédaction : Jacques de Lestapis, Hugues Dumont, François de Vries (Bruxelles), Hans-Ulrich Helfer (Suisse), Michael Hellerforth (Allemagne).
Comité militaire : VAE Guy Labouérie (†), GAA François Mermet (2S), CF Patrice Théry (Asie).