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Colin Powell Hopes Breaches Between Europe and the US Will Be Closed in 2005

Colin Powell Hopes Breaches Between Europe and the US Will Be Closed in 2005

Interview granted by U.S. Secretary Colin L. Powell to Christian Malar of France 3 Television. NATO Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium, December 9, 2004. Source: Department of State, Washington D.C.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for talking to me again.

Secretary Powell: My pleasure, Christian.

Christian Malar: Great pleasure to see you again. Mr. Secretary, the situation is far from being stabilized in Iraq. I know that yesterday, some American soldiers told Secretary Rumsfeld that they were demobilized, demoralized by the situation. At the same time, we do know that such countries as Iran, neighboring country, and some terrorist groups don’t want to hear about any stabilization of Iraq. So, in this context, do you think the January elections are going to happen in a reliable way?

Secretary Powell: Yes, we still are planning for the January 30th election. More importantly, the Iraqis want that election on the 30th of January. The one who determines the date is their election commission, and they’re determined to move forward. And we are organizing international observers. We are putting more troops in to make sure that situation is more stable than it is now.

There are people who don’t want to see an election. They’re terrorists, they’re murderers, they’re thugs. They want to go back to the days of Saddam Hussein. And we can’t let that happen. The Iraqi people don’t want that. They want the same thing that the people of Ukraine have fought for, the people of Georgia have fought for, the people of Afghanistan have fought for: to select their own leaders. And so there may be concerns about security - and these are legitimate concerns because we are fighting a very difficult insurgency - But we are going to do everything we can to make sure the security conditions permit these elections to take place on the 30th of January.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, I know one of the big bones of contention between President Chirac and President Bush has been Iraq. The first four years of the relationship between them has been awful. How do you see the future, as someone who knows both of them, of course? Can it get worse, knowing that President Chirac doesn’t want to get involved in Iraq financially or militarily?

Secretary Powell: Well I wouldn’t say the relationship is as bad as you describe it. Certainly there was a major disagreement over Iraq and nobody can paper that over. But our two presidents cooperated with respect to what we did in Afghanistan. We’ve cooperated with our efforts in Haiti. We have cooperated in the situation in Cote d’Ivoire. We have cooperated in many areas. We have worked to expand the NATO alliance to twenty-six nations, and we’ve worked closely with the European Union’s relationship with NATO. So there are many bilateral things that take place between the United States and France that suggest we recognize France as a partner, an ally and as an important trading partner of the United States.

But there are disagreements, and Iraq was a major disagreement, let there be no doubt. President Bush hopes to mend these breaches that have opened in our relationship with France and some other countries, frankly, and that is why he is planning to come to Europe early in his next term. In fact he will be in Europe on the 22nd of February. He is coming to attend NATO meetings the morning of the 22nd of February and to meet with the European Union the afternoon of the 22nd. And I hope that as part of those meetings, they will have an opportunity to discuss issues, not only with President Chirac, but with the other NATO heads of governments.

Christian Malar: So the Chirac-Bush relationship 2005 should get better?

Secretary Powell: I would certainly hope so. I think it is not as bad as people say it is, but we are always looking for ways to improve the relationship. I’ve had good relations with the three foreign ministers of France that I’ve served with, even though we have had serious discussions and disagreements. I never forget that the United States and France have been allies for so, so long – 227 years or thereabouts. I never forget that. Have we had disagreements? Always. There’s always some little problem. But do we always come back because we have shared values, we have, you know, a common destiny? The answer is yes we have shared values, yes we have a common destiny to move into the future, and that will always bring us back together.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, coming back to the Palestinian elections. If Prime Minister Sharon doesn’t come up with a proposal for substantial withdrawal from the occupied territories to the so-called moderate Palestinian leaders, Mahmoud Abbas, don’t you think that these people might be overwhelmed sooner than later by terrorist groups, Hammas, Jihad, and radical Palestinians?

Secretary Powell: Terrorism isn’t in the interest of the Palestinian people. The Intifadah is no longer in the interest of the Palestinian people. Regardless of what Mr. Sharon does. It has not brought the Palestinian people – this kind of activity – one step closer to having a state of their own.

Now there is a disengagement withdrawal proposal on the table. Prime Minister Sharon has said he’s going to withdrawal from those twenty-one settlements in Gaza, four settlements in the West Bank, all consistent with the Road Map. Meaning there will be other withdrawals, meaning that he wants to move down this Road Map with responsible Palestinian leaders to that point where a Palestinian state is created. That’s what President Bush is supporting. That’s the vision that President Bush and the Arab League have put before the world.

What we now need is a good election on the 9th of January in the Palestinian communities for a new president. And that new president then will have new authority in the post-Arafat period to work with Prime Minister Sharon and with the Quartet.

So I think we have a new opportunity here. There will be disengagement. There will be the closure of settlements. This is something that people have wanted for decades. I hope that the Palestinians, with their new leader, their new president, will understand that this is a terrific opportunity. The international community stands ready to help both the Palestinians and the Israelis. Egypt is playing an important role. The Arab nations are playing an important role.

Christian Malar: Iran, Mr. Secretary, Do you trust the Ayatollah saying “we freeze our nuclear program”? And don’t you think we have a risk to see Iran as a next target if they don’t cooperate- next target by Israel and by United States and some other countries?

Secretary Powell: We shouldn’t be talking about targets. The president and the international community are determined to get a diplomatic political solution. We are pleased that the EU-3 was able to get an agreement with Iran to suspend.

But we are concerned that it is only a suspension, and a suspension can be revoked. And so we believe that Iran has been moving toward the development of a nuclear weapon, and that concerns us. The United States, for four years, has been pointing out this problem to the world. And For the first two years, everybody thought we were just being the United States, screaming. But we were able to establish that the Iran had been doing things that were inconsistent with their obligations to the IAEA and to the agreements they had entered into. They agreed with a suspension proposal that the EU gave to them in the fall of 2002. And then they came out of that suspension by the middle of 2003, 2003-2004 I should say.

Now we have a new agreement with the European Union. That’s all well and good. But we should never take our eye off this problem. We would have referred it. The United States would have preferred to refer it to the Security Council earlier, but that’s not the judgment of the community. This is a case where the United States is working with our European friends, working with the international community, not acting in a unilateral manner. And this is the way we do most of our business.

Christian Malar: Just a question, Mr. Secretary. Ukraine’s situation reminded some of us recently of getting back to the time of the Cold War. Don’t you think that with the situation inside this country, we might see sooner President Putin and President Bush being at odds with each other because President Putin doesn’t accept what he calls the interference of the occidental world in his zone of influence, and especially from the United States?

Secretary Powell: No, I don’t think we’re headed to the Cold War, and I think that commentators who say we’re going back to the days of the Soviet Union and the Cold War are misreading the situation.

We have a situation here where the Ukrainian people want a free, fair, open election. It doesn’t have anything to do with anyone’s zone of influence or sphere of influence. These are old terms that are not relevant. Ukrainian people want to vote for their own leaders in a free, fair, open election. They did not get a free, fair and open election in this past re-run. And so now, the Ukrainians have figured out a way to have another election, to modify their election laws and their constitution.

What we should be doing – the United States, the European Union and the Russians – is supporting the Ukrainian people in their desire for a free, fair election.

And this is not a matter of taking Ukraine away from Russia or taking Ukraine away from the West. Ukraine wants to have good relations with both Russia and the West. So there’s no need for us to compete. We all should be satisfied with a Ukraine that has a leadership that is freely and fairly elected and a political system that rests on the foundation of democracy.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, you have a great knowledge of the world, not many people have your knowledge of what’s going on. My question is the following one: what are the events you have been the most struck by in 2004? And what are your wishes for 2005?

Secretary Powell: Well, what I have seen in 2004, I might say the four years that I have been secretary of state, is a desire on the part of so many people to live in freedom and to live under a political system that rests on a foundation of democracy and free elections. We’ve seen that in Afghanistan, where a terrible regime was eliminated, the Taliban, and now we see a freely elected president in office. We see the same thing in Iraq. In more and more places in the world, people want to live in freedom, they want democracy. And they’re expecting the industrialized world, the European world and the American world, to join together and help them in any way that we can. And that’s what we are committed to do.

And I hope that in 2005, any breaches that remain between Europe and the United States are closed. And we can work together to help the broader Middle East nations and North African nations reform and modernize themselves with our help. So we can consolidate democracy in Iraq and defeat these terrorists. I hope that 2005 will be a year of continued democratic growth and freedom throughout the world.

Christian Malar: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much. I wish you all the best. God bless you. And we are going to miss you.

Secretary Powell: Thank you, Christian.

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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).