U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
For Immediate Release
February 24, 2001
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
Press Briefing Aboard Aircraft
En Route to Cairo, Egypt
February 23, 2001
SECRETARY POWELL: Well good evening. Thank you all for
joining me. You have more people than I've got. This is not part
of your new trimmed down State Department when I see this group.
Glad to have you aboard and look forward to the opportunity of
speaking to you as we go around on our various
trips, not only this one, but in the future.
Why don't we just jump into your questions rather than me give a
Q: Iraq sanctions? Domestically but still have some impact
because of the
dual use challenges?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think it's important to point out that for
the last 10 years, the policy that the United Nations, the United
States has been following, has succeeded in keeping Iraq from
rebuilding to the level that it was before. It's an army that's
only one-third its original size. And even though they may be
pursuing weapons of mass destruction of all kinds,
it is not clear how successful they have been. So to some
extent, I think we ought to declare this a success. We have kept him
contained, kept him in his box.
And, beginning with the oil for food program a few years ago, we
became sensitive to the needs of the Iraqi people and found a way to
give them the wherewithal to provide for the Iraqi people. The
oil for food program gives him a great deal of money, on top of which
he smuggles quite a bit, which gives him an additional amount of
money, that exceeds the amount of money he was getting ten years ago.
The difference now is that the UN regime keeps a lot of that money
from being spent on weapons the way it was ten years ago, and so I
think we need to turn the debate onto his actions as opposed to our
actions. He is the one who is not providing for his people with
the money that the oil for food program and his smuggling is
providing. He is the one who is threatening
the region, not the United States. United States citizens...
Q: With all due respect, that's absolutely the same line we
heard from the last administration, and meanwhile, sanctions become
increasingly unpopular among people in the region, if we're going to
SECRETARY POWELL: Let me finish, let me finish. I'll take
all your questions. The difference is that we can now make the
case that all we're trying to do is not anything with respect to the
welfare of the people of Iraq, it's the weapons of mass destruction
we're after, and if he comes into compliance with the UN resolutions
and the agreements he made at the end of
the Gulf War with respect to the UN obligations and if he does that
and lets the inspectors back in, there is a way to get through this
What I'm going to be talking to my friends about in the region is that
we are taking this heat that somehow we are affecting the people of
Iraq, that somehow we are losing the support of Arabs in the street,
as they are often called. And if we are losing that support and
it's affecting the whole sanctions regime, then I want to hear about
that directly from our friends
in the region and let's exchange ideas about how we can make this
sanctions regime a more effective and more directed to its sole
purpose which is to constrain the development of weapons of mass
I think it's a case that can be made, I think it's a case that has a
powerful message behind it, and it's a case I'll be making, and I'm
going out to consult, not to lay down edicts. I'm going
out to listen to other ideas and bring those ideas back. I'm
going to share what I hear with my friends in Brussels, our NATO
allies and our EU colleagues in Brussels, and then I'm going to come
back and report all that to the President, and see what seems to be
appropriate after further consultations with the United
Nations as well.
Q: Did the bombing make your job tougher?
SECRETARY POWELL: I think the bombing shows that we will not, in
the process of looking at whether we should modify the sanctions
regime, not overlook his bad behavior, and we will use military force
where we think it is necessary.
This particular incident that got all of the attention last week, it
was in response to his efforts, his activities in the no fly zone,
around the no fly zone, which puts our pilots at risk. We have
always said we would respond to such activities, normally it's not
noticed, in this case it was noticed and it became a very big story.
It was at the upper end of our scale of response, and if he puts our
pilots at risk, we will respond.
If he does things which we think move in the direction of threatening
his neighbors or in violating the terms of the agreements that came
out of the Gulf War, we have prepared to respond militarily. He
should know that and he should understand that.
To the extent that it has made my trip a little more difficult because
there's been some response in the region that was unfavorable, shall
we say, or there's a bit of criticism -- in some places quite a bit of
criticism -- over the fact that we did that, to the extent that makes
my job and my work a little more difficult, well, so be it. But
it makes the point that we will not allow the negotiating track or
whatever we're doing with respect to sanctions overcome what we're
prepared to do militarily. And if it means my trip is a little
more difficult, I'm prepared to take on that added burden.
Q: It may be legitimate to say that the no fly zones, especially
the southern one, have outlived their usefulness. Are you
considering any changes in the way that you manage the no fly zones or
the level of concentration that you put on them?
SECRETARY POWELL: We think both no fly zones continue to serve a
purpose of protecting the people who live under those no fly zones as
well as giving us advance warning of actions he might be taking
directed against his neighbors outside of his boundaries. So the
no fly zones are staying in place. But
we are always in the process of reviewing how to manage them, how best
to fly them; and I would expect that Mr. Rumsfeld is undertaking that
review as part of our overall review.
Q: If you modify the sanctions, what are the risks there?
SECRETARY POWELL: If the sanctions are modified, it won't be as
a result of just America saying let's modify the sanctions. It
will be because we have been able to agree with our friends in the
region and with our friends at the UN that the sanctions should be
modified so that we can remove this hammer that is being used against
us, suggesting that we are hurting the
Iraqi people, and we can make it clear that the sanctions directly
relate to the provocation. Now, that's what I'll be listening to
arguments about and ideas on.
Q: What if you take ideas out and there are some sort of
sanctions, which, we'd also like you to explain what your ideas are
about modifying sanctions.
SECRETARY POWELL: I do have some ideas but I think it best I
present those ideas to my interlocutors before I share them with the
Q: What can you say to our Arab allies in the Gulf who want to
see the sanctions lifted, but who want to contain Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: Every conversation I've had on this subject in
recent weeks, and I've had quite a few, with those leaders in the
Gulf, the representative leaders in the Gulf and with my friends in
the United Nations, recognize the danger that Saddam Hussein and his
weapons development activities present to the region.
I haven't heard anybody say to me, no, he's a nice guy, he's not doing
this, forget about it, remove the whole thing, because we want to
welcome him back. Everybody I've spoken to understands that this
guy and his regime and his activities present a danger to the region
-- not a danger to the United
States, a danger to the region, to the people of the region, to the
children of the region.
What they are concerned about and what I have had presented to me and
the frustrations I've heard are that we've got to take another look at
how it is being done, because there is a belief, at least within a
number of the Arab communities, that we are hurting the people of Iraq
and we are not hurting the regime and the regime's activities with
respect to improving its military capacity or developing weapons of
Because this is a consultative process, and because President Bush has
made it clear to everybody that we're going to act after consulting
with our friends, I'm going out to hear these arguments firsthand, in
addition to just listening to representatives who have come and
visited me which I've
appreciated, but I want to hear it firsthand.
Q: Is there no danger that if you streamline sanctions that
Saddam will be able to play it that he won, that he beat them down and
forced the United States...
SECRETARY POWELL: No matter what we do, he will claim some level
of success. But you can claim one thing, and the reality is
And the reality in his situation is it's a sad, tragic case of a
tribal leader trapped in a jail of his own making, protected by his
security, with young people who are not benefiting from a world that
is changing. He pursues these weapons that will, at the end of
the day, not bring him what he thinks they will bring him, and it's a
tragedy that his nation's wealth is being squandered in this way.
So he will claim what he wishes to claim. He will claim that
Kuwait still belongs to Iraq. He will claim that he is winning
the mother of all battles. Meanwhile, our economy continues to
do well, nations around the world are enjoying the benefits of
freedom, others are trying to figure out how to join this new world,
and he sits there in his palaces, squandering the wealth of his
[unrelated material deleted]
Q: On Iraq sanctions, is the primary key here refocusing the
debate and perception about sanctions? Or is the key actually
refocusing the substance of the sanctions, perhaps in the form of new
SECRETARY POWELL: The key is to make sure that all of our
actions, whether they are related with the UN, whether what we do with
what's happening in Israel and Gaza and the West Bank, all of our
regional activities, the bilateral relations we have with Egypt, with
Saudi Arabia, with all the others, link it together in a regional
framework. We can all come together
and then focus on Iraq and say to them, you will not be permitted to
develop these weapons of mass destruction, and we are going to use the
tools at our disposal to make sure that you are contained until you
learn your lesson.
One of the tools at our disposal are sanctions, and to make sure that
our sanctions policy is directed toward that end.
If there are aspects of the UN sanctions policy that are not directed
toward that end and are frustrating our ability to hold the whole
regime in place, then I want to know about that, I want to understand
that, I want to hear that from our friends in the region and go back
and discuss it with the Perm 5, discuss it with the President, discuss
it with Kofi Annan, discuss it
with my NATO and EU colleagues, and to see if there's a better way to
do it and not lose sight of our goal and our objective.
Q: As I'm sure you've already heard from many within the Arab
world, they're under tremendous pressure now since the Palestinian
uprising began, just from their own people. There's a direct
link between the state of the crisis within the Palestinian
territories and Iraq. So how are you going
to -- do you have any ideas as to how to end the violence between
Israel and the Palestinians?
SECRETARY POWELL: That's another purpose of my trip, to speak to
of course the Arab leaders -- I'm going to meet with Palestinian
leaders and the Israeli leaders and make the case to them that the
whole region is under an enormous degree of tension now, whether it
has to do with what's going on in
Iraq, or what's going on in Israel and Gaza, the West Bank, and just
stabilize this situation.
We must get the level of violence down. It's easy to say,
difficult to do, but it takes leaders and statesmen to step forward
and to take responsibility and to speak to everybody in their part of
that world, and say we have got to get the violence down, and we have
got to get back to the
kinds of bilateral security and multilateral, in some cases, security
arrangements that have been created over the last several years that
have now been fractured and frayed.
We have got to also get some economic activity going back so that the
Palestinian people can have the means to live, the means to put food
on the table, and only when we have done these pieces, and they can't
be seriatum, we have to sort of work on these three pieces:
stabilization activities, lower the level of violence, and get
economic activity together. When we
get these three things moving again -- and it's going to take some
time, when we get them moving again and we stabilize the situation,
then we begin to see where we are. By then we'll have a new
Israeli government in place, and then we begin to see, where does the
negotiation begin again? And on what basis? At what level
are they ready to negotiate and at what level of negotiation?
It's not clear where we will start that. There are some who are
going to want to start at Taba, there are others who are going to want
to start elsewhere, and we will have to see how to begin that
There will be a negotiation again, there's no choice but to eventually
move forward, because these two people will be living in this land
together forever, and they have to find a way to do that.
America, the United States will play its role, and we'll play our role
aggressively. President Bush will be engaged, I will be engaged, but
there are some things that have to
happen first that I just described.
Q: If I could just follow up very quickly, is it possible to
reenergize the sanctions, to get the coalition back together as long
as the violence in the Israel and Palestinian territories continues?
SECRETARY POWELL: That remains to be seen, but it is my hope
that it is possible.
Q: How do you hope to persuade the Syrians that it's not a good
idea for them to make billions of dollars by taking this Iraqi oil?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, one of the reasons for me to go to
Damascus and meet with the President, I've never been there, and in
the course of my experience, I haven't met with Syrian leaders, so I'm
looking forward to the opportunity of meeting with President Assad,
and I will make the same case to him.
We have to remember that Syria was part of the Desert Storm coalition,
and I think Syria has reason to be concerned about Saddam Hussein
developing weapons of mass destruction. Damascus is a lot closer
than New York.
[unrelated material deleted]
Q: I just want to ask about the tightening of sanctions on
materials to do with WMD. That means -- how do you do this?
You have to have inspectors on every plane going into Iraq? You
have bodies all along the border between
Jordan and Iraq? What are you going to suggest to the allies in
the region on how this can be accomplished? How do you do it?
SECRETARY POWELL: The regime that's in place now and the way in
which UN members and others have been following that regime have done
a pretty good job of keeping out the major arms systems going in.
Part of what I'm also going to be looking at - I'm glad you asked it, Jane, because
it gives me the chance to make another point. I'll
be speaking to the Syrians and the Jordanians and to others in the
region how we do a better job of tightening access into Iraq. If
we are able, through this consultative process, at some point in the
future to all come into agreement
that we should modify the regime, then I think part of that
modification effort should also include how do we make sure we know
what we're doing, how do we tighten what actually goes in.
Now, the other issue that will almost certainly come up is how do you
ultimately get out of this? Under 1284 I believe he has an
obligation -Saddam Hussein - to let inspectors back in and let the
inspectors do their job. I think that part of this regime should
be put the burden on him, that he'll have to stay under this regime,
whatever regime it is -- the current one or anything that's modified
-- until the inspectors are allowed in to do their job.
Q: One point that's been made by a number of people is that
you're considering easing up on $3 billion worth of so-called dual-use
goods that are on hold in the UN committee. Many of these
things are things like refrigerated trucks, which you can use for milk
or you can use for biological weapons. Is this one of the areas you
are going to be exploring, how to make this more flexible and less
SECRETARY POWELL: We're looking at what's being held back.
We're looking at the 1051 lists. We're looking at all of that.
We're talking to the Sanctions Committee. All of that is part of
our consultation process. But I'm not far enough along to tell
you what we will do with a particular number of holes or a particular
amount. It may stay the way it is. That will really be
derivative of what we ultimately decide to do with all of our
Q: Mr. Secretary, what about getting rid of Saddam? Is
that a necessity?
There are many in Congress that think a regime change is the
SECRETARY POWELL: That is a sense in the Congress that came down to us
in a law, and we are providing support to the Iraqi opposition, and
we'll continue to provide that support and constantly look at our
But at the same time, recall that is separate and distinct from the
UN. It doesn't relate to UN activities.
Source: U.S. State Department