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TRANSCRIPT EXCERPTS: POWELL, GERMAN FOREIGN MINISTER ON IRAQ
(U.S., German governments in agreement on Iraq)

February 22, 2001

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said the U.S. and German governments are in full agreement on the need to stop Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

The U.S. and German governments are very much concerned about "the immense security risk posed by the Iraqi government, both in terms of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and of carrier missiles," Fischer said when he and Powell briefed reporters in Washington February 20.

"The source of the problem is in Baghdad," Powell said, and the regime of Saddam Hussein should be called what it is -- "a regime that is dictatorial, that does not mean well for the region, that takes advantage of public opinion, that uses its people for propaganda purposes." 

Fischer said the German government supported the U.S. and British air strikes against Iraq February 16. "We understand the action our allies had to take in an immensely difficult situation where they have to make sure that they safeguard the lives of the Kurds as well as of their own troops in those regions," he said.

Powell said expressions of concern about the military action voiced by various Arab nations were fairly moderate, and that his message during his coming visit to the region will be that the United States is not the source of Iraq's problems.

Powell expressed the wish that Iraq would use its enormous intellectual riches and natural resources for good purposes instead of bad.

"There is not a single Iraqi child who should be without a book.  There is not a single Iraqi person who should be without health care.  There isn't a single Iraqi person who should be suffering, because there is more than enough money in the oil-for-food program to take care of all of them," he said.

Following are excerpts related to Iraq from the transcript of the briefing:

(Begin transcript excerpts)

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
February 20, 2001

JOINT PRESS AVAILABILITY WITH GERMAN MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS JOSCHKA FISCHER AND SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL

FISCHER: We discussed also about the situation in the Middle East. And for us, the role of the United States in the Middle East is essential, together with the parties on the ground. But I think peace in the Middle East is in the common interest.

And we talked also about the situation in Iraq, and we appreciate very much what we heard, that you are looking for a political solution. And you underlined that indeed Saddam Hussein and his policy, which tries to get the capabilities for weapons of mass destruction and missile technologies, is the real reason, and that the embargo policy is not directed against the Iraqi people, but directed against that policy. So, in fact, we agree that we should go ahead along these lines, but made also quite clear that there will be no possibility for Saddam Hussein to threaten peace in the region or in the international community.

....

Q: Minister Fischer, may I address you in German and also ask you for a response in German, if I may? (In German.)

Through translator: By now you heard the statement of the US side concerning the recent bombing on Iraq. Would you be willing at this point to say that Friday's attack was both legitimate and sensible?

FOREIGN MINISTER FISCHER: (In German.)

Through translator: We talked about this issue at length, of course, and we are very much concerned, as is the American side, about the immense security risk posed by the Iraqi Government, both in terms of the spread of weapons of mass destruction and of carrier missiles.

We do agree that it is necessary to get Iraq to comply with the United Nations resolutions, all of them, and we listened with great interest to what Secretary of State Powell said in this respect in the briefing on this situation. We understand the action our allies had to take in an immensely difficult situation where they have to make sure that they safeguard the lives of the Kurds as well as of their own troops in those regions.

Q: Secretary Powell, the US has put a lot of effort and time, money, and risking American lives in patrolling the no-fly zones over Iraq. Do you think the results have been worth that effort? And as the Administration goes forward in looking at Iraq policy, do you expect containment to be the bottom line still?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we're looking at every option in all parts of our policy: the UN part of our policy which requires Iraq to give up these weapons of mass destruction, and of course we have our own policies with respect to Iraq where we believe a change of regime would be in the best interest of all concerned.

The fact of the matter is that both baskets, the UN basket and what we and other allies have been doing in the region, have succeeded in containing Saddam Hussein and his ambitions. His forces are about one-third their original size. They don't really possess the capability to attack their neighbors the way they did ten years ago.

The danger he presents to the world is that he does pursue weapons of mass destruction, against the agreements that he entered into. So we will be talking with our friends in the region -- that's the purpose of my trip this weekend -- and we are reviewing with the Pentagon and all other parts of the US Government the full range of options available to us. And we will be announcing our decisions in due course.

Containment has been a successful policy, and I think we should make sure that we continue it until such time as Saddam Hussein comes into compliance with the agreements he made at the end of the war. But we have to find ways to do it to not hurt the Iraqi people. We are not after the Iraqi people. We don't want to hurt the Iraqi people. But we don't want Saddam Hussein and his efforts to hurt the people of the region or to threaten the people of the region. And that's what it's all about.

....

Q: Mr. Secretary, John Diamond with the Chicago Tribune. Were you surprised by the level of criticism from some of the moderate Arab nations of the strike on Friday? Some of these nations you're going to be visiting later this week. Could you summarize what you're going to be telling them, given their strongly held views?

And, finally, since a big part of the US policy is to secure the region, and since these are after all the countries in the region, why are they -- you know, what is the purpose of a policy that they are opposed to if it is, in part, to protect them?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I will make those points to them, that the policy does exist to protect them. One of the reasons for our presence in the region, and one of the reasons we fought the Gulf War, was not just to kick the Iraqi army out of Kuwait, but to bring a new sense of security to the region. And for the past ten years they have enjoyed that security.

But there have always been neuralgic points associated with our policy. The expression of concern that I received over the weekend from various Arab nations in the region frankly was fairly moderate. There were expressions of distress, there were some demonstrations in streets, but overall I think the response was fairly moderate.

And the point we are making to our friends is that as long as we are there and are flying these missions for the purpose, not of aggression against Iraq, but to keep Iraq from being the aggressor against its own citizens, in the north against the Kurds or in the south against the Shiites. And as long as we believe that mission is necessary, then we are going to protect our pilots.

And this particular mission was necessary to be conducted. It was part of a routine scenario of missions that could be flown in response to this kind of provocation, and we flew the mission to take out command-and-control installations related to their air defense system that threatened our pilots. And no President and no Secretary of State is ever going to apologize for taking the necessary action to protect the young men and women that we send into combat. And I think I also can speak for the Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in that regard.

And I will make that point to my friends as I go throughout the region, and I will make the point that don't look at the United States as the source of the problem. The source of the problem is in Baghdad, a nation with enormous riches -- intellectual riches and the riches that they have in the form of oil -- if only they would use it for good purposes instead of bad purposes, evil purposes.

Now, we have to call this regime the way it needs to be called: a regime that is dictatorial, that does not mean well for the region, that takes advantage of public opinion, that uses its people for propaganda purposes. There is not a single Iraqi child who should be without a book. There is not a single Iraqi person who should be without health care. There isn't a single Iraqi person who should be suffering, because there is more than enough money in the Oil-for-Food program to take care of all of them.

And the only thing he has to do and they have to do to get out of this box and to bring all well to the region is to comply, with respect to the UN sanctions anyway, to comply with the agreements that were made at the end of the Gulf War.

Q: Secretary Powell, Minister Fischer opposed the Vietnam War, opposed American missiles in Germany, he opposed the Gulf War, and now you sit here with him and talk about missiles on Iraq. What do you think of that?

SECRETARY POWELL: Amazing, isn't it?

(Laughter.)

SECRETARY POWELL: The world has changed. The world has changed remarkably. When we went into the Gulf War, we have to remember the Soviet Union was supporting us politically. Syrian and Egyptian forces were with us. The world has changed enormously, and we are not looking at the past; we are looking at the future. And the future we see is a very, very bright one for those nations that embrace democracy and the free enterprise system and those nations that believe in the rights of men and women to pursue their own destiny.

The Minister and I share those values in spades, and as a result, what is in the past is in the past. We are now the best of friends between our nations, and I think the best of friends between two men.

Thank you very much.

(End transcript excerpts)

(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov )





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