Powell Discusses U.S. Middle East, Africa Policies

 

Tuesday  July 1, 2003
(June 30 Interview on PBS Television "NewsHour") (2620)

Secretary of State Colin Powell said he is pleased with the first
steps Israelis and Palestinians have taken down the road to peace, but
he cautioned that "it is not the end of the game."

Interviewed June 30 on the American PBS television news program "The
NewsHour with Jim Lehrer," the secretary cited several reasons why he
believes current peace process may succeed where others have not. He
also spoke about U.S. foreign policy in Africa, saying the aims of the
administration mirrored its objectives around the globe -- to foster
democracy, civil liberties and free market systems.

On the Middle East, Powell said reforms in the Palestinian Authority,
encompassing new, responsible leadership and effective financial
accountability, enhance the peace process.

"Another fundamental element, I think, is President Bush's
involvement. He said that when the Palestinians came up with new
leadership and after the Israelis had gotten through their election at
the end of last year, that he would involve himself directly, and he
did that with the roadmap that was presented to the parties and with
his participation in the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba Summits," Powell
said.

Underlying these develops, the secretary believes, is the realization
among Israelis and Palestinians that the cycle of violence works
against their own prosperity.

"Both sides now realize if they don't take this opportunity, with the
involvement of the entire international community, the Quartet, and
President Bush, then what is the alternative, and they had better
grasp this opportunity and run with it," Powell said.

Asked whether the U.S. is preparing to intervene in Liberia, Powell
noted the administration's serious concern for the safety of people in
the area and said he expected President Bush to outline a course of
action "in the very near future."

Powell reiterated Bush's call for Liberia's President Taylor to "step
aside so that we can find a solution to this problem."

He underscored U.S. commitment to "helping Africans help themselves,"
evidenced by America's substantial investment in developing Africa's
infrastructure and the administration's HIV/AIDS initiative.

Following is a transcript of Powell's interview:

(begin transcript)

Interview on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer
Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
June 30, 2003

MR. LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, welcome.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you, Jim. Good evening.

MR. LEHRER: Good evening. First, on the Middle East, the Israeli
pullout from Gaza today, is this a major event on the road to peace?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it is a significant event on the roadmap
process. Now, whether it will lead to peace or not, we don't know yet,
but we certainly hope so.

This is the kind of step that the President called for and expected to
see after the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba Summits, both sides
undertaking their obligations under the roadmap. In the case of the
Israeli side, they've released prisoners, they have removed some of
the unauthorized outposts that were there, and are taking other steps;
for example, transferring Gaza over to the Palestinians. The
Palestinians are willing to take on Gaza and take responsibility for
what happens in Gaza, and so I think both sides are now stepping up to
those obligations and that is very, very good.

The fact that three organizations -- Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic
Jihad and the Al-Aqsa Brigades of Fatah -- today also declared
ceasefires kind of makes it a little easier for the Palestinians to
take over. It was not a part of our arrangement. We are very pleased
with this. Ambassador John Wolf of my staff has been deeply involved
in making the arrangements between the Palestinian and Israeli sides.
We hope this will extend to Bethlehem in the next day or so, and that
the process will continue from there. So it is a good start, Jim, and
we ought to be pleased with it, but we have a long way to go.

MR. LEHRER: Now, the Israelis pretty much dismissed this ceasefire
from these militant organizations, but you're not dismissing it, are
you?

SECRETARY POWELL: I wouldn't dismiss it out of hand, but I understand
the Israeli position. What they say is that, "What good is a ceasefire
if the capability for terror still exists within those organizations?
Does not a ceasefire just give them the opportunity to regain
strength?" And the Palestinian point of view, "Let's take over Gaza,
but let's not get into a civil war with Hamas right away over removing
that capability."

And so I think it is a step forward, but it is not the end of the
game. We are committed to seeing those organizations completely
eliminate all capacity for terrorist acts against Israel. And as Prime
Minister Abbas has said, the Palestinian Prime Minister has said, "You
can't have a democratic state if anyone other than the government has
guns." So he is committed to making sure that these kinds of
organizations do not continue to destroy the dreams of the Palestinian
people for their own state.

The good news, also, today, is the people of Gaza can now start to
move freely within Gaza. And I hope that as a result of that -- being
able to get around, being able to get to jobs, being able to go to
schools and to take care of their healthcare needs -- I hope as a
result of that, they will be encouraged by what Prime Minister Abbas
has brought about, and this will gain him additional support,
hopefully at the expense of those organizations who have been
committing terrorist acts and have not been moving the Palestinian
people any closer to peace or their state.

MR. LEHRER: Has the United States taken any concrete steps to help the
Palestinian Authority control matters in Gaza now to maintain a police
force, maintain order, et cetera?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are working with the Palestinian Authority on
what needs they have for vehicles, communications equipment, training,
whatever other support they might require, we're working with them, as
are others. Arab leaders are involved and members of the Quartet that
worked with me on this, the European Union, the UN, Russian Federation
-- all doing what we can to enhance the ability of the Palestinian
Authority.

Ambassador Wolf, as I mentioned earlier, is leading our monitoring
group there, and he will help them coordinate with each other, but he
will also assess what needs they have and will make a judgment as to
how to satisfy those needs.

MR. LEHRER: Is it too early to say that there's something
fundamentally different with this peace process than those that have
come before and have failed, for the most part?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are some new elements to it that I think
make a difference now, and perhaps the most important of these is that
we have responsible leadership on the Palestinian side in the person
of Prime Minister Abbas and his new cabinet, who have committed
themselves to the roadmap, who have committed themselves to
transforming the government of the Palestinian Authority, making it
more responsible, making their financial activities more transparent.
The Finance Minister, Mr. Fayad, has been doing a good job in
capturing all of the funds that are available to the Authority, and
thereby available to the Palestinian people.

So we are seeing more responsible and reformed leadership come into
place. That's fundamental. Another fundamental element, I think, is
President Bush's involvement. He said that when the Palestinians came
up with new leadership and after the Israelis had gotten through their
election at the end of last year, that he would involve himself
directly, and he did that with the roadmap that was presented to the
parties and with his participation in the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba
Summits. So I think that's essential.

Perhaps one other element that I should touch on that is perhaps even
more fundamental than anything else I've talked about, both sides are
stuck in this cycle of violence. Both sides are watching their
economies just go right into the ditch. Both sides see that their
people want peace. And both sides now realize if they don't take this
opportunity, with the involvement of the entire international
community, the Quartet, and President Bush, then what is the
alternative, and they had better grasp this opportunity and run with
it.

MR. LEHRER: All right, sir. On Africa today, there were new calls for
the U.S. to send 2,000 troops and take a lead role in Liberia. Is that
going to happen?

SECRETARY POWELL: We're deeply concerned about the situation in
Liberia and we have been studying it over a period of time. In the
last several days our study has become more intense, as you would
imagine.

The principals, the senior leaders in the national security part of
our government, met on the weekend on this subject and we are looking
a variety of options and plans, and we will discuss it in greater
detail tomorrow. But no decisions have been yet, except that we are
concerned with the situation in Liberia and concerned, as well, with
the safety of our people in Liberia, but really, for the suffering
that the Liberian people are going through right now. And as President
Bush said in his speech last week, we believe it is time for President
Taylor to step aside so that we can find a solution to this problem.

MR. LEHRER: Secretary General, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan said
today, he thinks it's also time for the United States to take a
leadership role. Have you talked to Kofi Annan about this?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I spoke to him today, and I've spoken to him
several times over the past seven days, and we met on the subject in
the Dead Sea, in a resort area in Jordan last weekend. So he and I
have been in very close touch on this situation, following it closely,
and all of this will be presented to the President in the very near
future. And then we will make our decisions and the President will
tell us what he wishes to do, what we should do about this, and then
we'll move on.

MR. LEHRER: Is there likely to be a decision soon? When you say, "the
next few days," do you mean like, tomorrow or the next day? Before the
4th? Something like that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's a sense -- there's a sense of urgency
with respect to the situation and I don't want to prejudge when the
President might decide or what he might decide, but we are seized with
the matter. We understand that this is a problem that has to be dealt
with in the very near future.

MR. LEHRER: As I'm sure you recall, Mr. Secretary, during the 2000
Presidential Campaign, then-candidate George W. Bush said that he did
not see Africa as being a vital national security interest to the
United States. So have you got an additional burden to get over in
order to get the President to do something about places like Liberia?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. And your quote from the debate during the 2000
campaign is a little bit out of context, but I won't belabor that. The
President has made it clear that Africa is important. The Millennium
Challenge Account providing huge new sums for development of
infrastructure in developing countries in Africa, the HIV/AIDS
initiative of the President all suggest that he understands Africa is
very important.

His speech to the Corporate Council on Africa last week was one of the
most wide-ranging and longer speeches that he has given describing his
commitment to helping Africans help themselves. And of course, he'll
be going to Africa next week. I think that shows that he is determined
to play a role, a leading role in Africa. It will depend on the
situation and on the particular country.

MR. LEHRER: Well, for instance, another country, Congo. There are
little boys and girls carrying weapons there and shooting at each
other. Rape is being used as what they call, "a weapon of mass
destruction," and they are talking about genocide. Is that on the list
of U.S. priorities, as well?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, and we have been participating in the debates
in the UN and we are looking at the latest request from the Secretary
General to increase the size of the UN force in Congo. And we have
been in close touch with our French and other European colleagues
about their activities in Northeast Congo around the town of Bunia.
And I spoke to French Foreign Minister Dominique deVillepin about the
situation today. So we are staying in close touch and are very pleased
that the French have taken the lead in places such as Northeast Congo
and in Cote d'Ivoire, and our British colleagues have taken the lead
in Sierra Leone.

MR. LEHRER: You know, Zimbabwe is another country -- you recently, in
fact, called for the ouster of President Mugabe. Is anything being
done about that or was that just a call for his departure?

SECRETARY POWELL: We've been very tough, frankly, on Zimbabwe from the
very beginning of the Administration. Early in my tenure as Secretary
of State, when I gave a speech in South Africa, I called for reform in
President Mugabe's regime in Zimbabwe and unfortunately, the situation
has just continued to deteriorate. And so we believe that change is
appropriate there, too, to help the people of Zimbabwe -- used to be a
country that exported food to the region. Now, it is an importer of
food. And the political situation has deteriorated. The human rights
situation has deteriorated, and we're working with our European
friends, but especially with our African friends in the region, to
bring greater pressure to bear on President Mugabe, and I'm sure this
will be a subject of considerable discussion during the President's
trip next week.

MR. LEHRER: So there is not a separate standard for Africa versus the
rest of the world?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. In fact, you know, if you look at the Millennium
Challenge Account and you look at the other things we are doing, the
Middle East Partnership Initiative, the HIV/AIDS program that the
President has put in place, we believe that there should be one
standard for the world, whether it is the Muslim part of the world or
the African part of the world, or any part of the world, and that is
that people should be free to pursue their dreams, and that a
democratic system, not necessarily an American-imposed Jeffersonian
democratic system, but a system of government where people are free to
choose their leaders in an open process. We still believe that that is
the political system that is most in tune with the needs and
aspirations of people around the world today.

And yes, we believe that the free market economic system, if practiced
correctly with an economic system based on the rule of law and a
willingness to participate in a globalizing economic system throughout
the world is the best way to proceed. But it requires investment in
these countries. It requires them to invest in democracy and a free
economic system, and it requires those of us with money, the United
States and other nations around the world, the developed world, to
invest in these countries that are moving down the right path toward
the future. And that's what the Millennium Challenge Account
initiative is all about.

MR. LEHRER: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much.

SECRETARY POWELL: You're quite welcome, Jim.

(end transcript)

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