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Powell Senses New Attitude within Palestinian Leadership
Secretary sees opportunity for real progress for Mideast peace
Secretary of State Colin Powell said that he senses a new attitude within the Palestinian leadership after his meetings with Prime Minister Ahmed Qurei, PLO Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and Palestinian Authority Acting President Rawhi Fattouh November 22.
"I sense an understanding that an opportunity has presented itself and if both sides work together to make sure that the Palestinians have a successful election on the 9th of January , and to that election bestow the legitimacy of the electorate on a new president, then we have some opportunities to move even more aggressively in the months after that toward the disengagement from Gaza," he said in an Israeli television interview.
Powell met with several Palestinian officials as well as Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom during a daylong visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories.
He said that the new attitude on the Palestinian side and the flexibility he observed on the Israeli side led him to believe that there is now a possibility to move forward in the road-map peace process.
The secretary said he will be speaking with his colleagues in the Quartet for Middle East peace, which includes Russia, the European Union and the United Nations along with the United States, to deliver what he called "an encouraging message that we now have an opportunity for real progress."
Powell will be meeting with Quartet members during the Iraq Neighbors Conference November 22-23 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt.
Powell also addressed questions about President Bush's most recent cabinet and staff appointments. He said that the new appointees are people with strong views that they will not be afraid to present to the president.
He said, "There will be different voices representing different perspectives, and different bureaucratic interests, and different approaches to the same problem. There's always an intelligence approach, a diplomatic approach, a military approach. And what you do is, with a good national security system, you integrate all of these approaches and you provide the president with the best recommendations."
Following is the transcript of Powell's interview with Israeli television:
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE
Office of the Spokesman
(Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt)
November 22, 2004
INTERVIEW SECRETARY OF STATE COLIN L. POWELL WITH AYALA HASSON OF ISRAEL TELEVISION CHANNEL ONE
David Citadel Hotel
November 22, 2004
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, you are just coming from - your first visit with a new Palestinian leadership. Both Israelis and Americans used to define Arafat as an obstacle to the peace process. In light of your meetings, do you think that these obstacles have been removed? Did you meet a new attitude with the new leadership?
SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, I saw a new attitude. These are gentlemen I have known for a long time, Mr. Abu Ala and Abu Mazen. I met the new President, Mr. Fatouh today, and Saeb Erekat and Nabil Shath. But I sense a new attitude. I sense an understanding that an opportunity has presented itself and if both sides work together to make sure that the Palestinians have a successful election on the 9th of January, and to that election bestow the legitimacy of the electorate on a new president, then we have some opportunities to move even more aggressively in the months after that toward the disengagement from Gaza. So, I believe there is a new attitude and we must take advantage of this new attitude.
QUESTION: Mr. Powell, actually in fact, it is your last visit as Secretary of State, of course, to the Middle East. How committed you think the new Administration will be to the outcome of your talks here in the region?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, keep in mind it is really the same administration-President Bush- and President Bush has been committed to the peace process from the very beginning and he put forward a vision in of June of 2002 of a Palestinian state living side by side in peace with Israel. He has never lost sight of that vision, but he felt that Chairman Arafat had been an obstacle to peace, and now we have new leadership and the president will engage as fully as he can. That's why he wanted me to come here as soon as possible after Chairman Arafat's demise. And you can be sure that the new team, Dr. Rice at the State Department and Mr. Hadley as the National Security Advisor, both of whom are intimately familiar with these issues, will be carrying forward the president's agenda.
QUESTION: So, we are not talking about new policy here, for example, by intervening more, or by sending high-level envoys or even establishing an international committee here in the region?
SECRETARY POWELL: Not yet, although one should not rule out a particular mechanism or tool that might be useful in the future. Right now the president believes that the Road Map that we have all agreed to is a proper tool to look at to move forward. Both sides have obligations under that Road Map, step-by-step obligations. You can't jump over parts of the Road Map to get to later parts of the Road Map.
And so we have enough to get started, and with new attitudes and new leadership on the Palestinian side and with the very forthcoming and flexible attitude I detected and heard from the Israelis about, I think there is enough for us to move forward now. Tomorrow morning I will be speaking to the Quartet about what I have heard and seen today and I will give them an encouraging message that we now have an opportunity for real progress.
QUESTION: America has been stressing the importance of democratic elections in the Palestinian Authority. But have you considered the possibility that Barghouti, even though he is in jail, he might be the chosen president?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, right now we will have to wait and see who steps forward to be a candidate. The Barghouti problem is a complex one. I am not sure what he is planning to do, but I think we will just have to wait and see. He is now in legal custody of the state of Israel, and that situation is not something that appears to be about to change. And so this is something that the Palestinians will have to work out among themselves, who they offer for candidacy.
QUESTION: But it is a possibility, even though he is in jail?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, yes, but I don't know what he is planning to do. I am sure he is examining his situation, but this is a matter to be...
QUESTION: He didn't let you know?
SECRETARY POWELL: ... no, I haven't had conversations. This is a matter to be worked out here in the region and not by the United States expressing a view or putting itself in the middle of this situation.
QUESTION: I would like to ask you a question about Bin Laden. Do you think that Bin Laden has the ability to attack with WMD?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't think so at the moment. I am sure that he is trying to acquire WMD. But right now he is a fugitive. He no longer is running the kind of organization that he ran a few years ago where he did have laboratories experimenting with these things. He is a man who is on the run. We don't know exactly where he is. We believe he is still alive. He is still a danger to the civilized world, and we are still pursuing him.
And so we have to defend ourselves. Not just the United States, but all civilized nations. Especially Israel, which knows this so well, has to defend itself. Every nation has to defend itself against terrorists, whether it is Bin Laden or some other type of terrorist who might have access to these kinds of weapons. It's one reason we did what we did in Iraq because there was a real possibility that with its capability and with its intention, Iraq could be a source of such weapons for these terrorist organizations.
QUESTION: Talking about Iraq, Mr. Powell, when you leave office and write your book, how will you define your relationship with President Bush, specifically at the time you were sent to the U.N.- to the diplomatic frontline - to justify the war in Iraq?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well I have no plans on writing a book at the moment but when I went to the U.N. on the 5th of February of 2003, it was with the best intelligence that our CIA and all of our other intelligence organizations had. It was also the intelligence that had been presented to our Congress, the intelligence that had been shared with our allies, and with our allies agreeing with most of that intelligence, same intelligence President Clinton used years earlier when he attacked Iraq as well. It turned out that some of that intelligence information that I presented was not accurate. We did not know it at the time.
So we put forward the best case that we could, and we believed that it was accurate. We now know that Saddam Hussein had the intention of having such weapons, had used such weapons in the past, had the capability of making such weapons, had not accounted for the weapons he had had in the past. What we didn't find was the stockpiles we thought were there. And we had a mistake there, obviously, because we haven't found these stockpiles. So that was wrong. Everything else I think was correct. And when you have a man like Saddam Hussein, who gassed his own people in 1988 and killed 5,000 people in one morning, who attacked his neighbor Iran with chemical weapons: should we take the chance? Should we take the risk? And President Bush wisely and correctly said we should not. And I supported President Bush fully in that decision.
QUESTION: OK. One of the most important lessons learned from the Bay of Pigs invasion was that a yes-man cabinet is a danger to America. However it seems that President Bush has appointed very loyal, very hawkish, very conservative cabinet. Do you think that they will challenge President Bush's policies?
SECRETARY POWELL: You know the purpose of the cabinet is to give the president, or the prime minister, the best advice that they can. And I know every member of the new security cabinet, and I can I assure, that these are people with strong views and when they have strong views, they will present those strong views, And they will present those views to the President. Because you don't serve the president unless you give the president your best opinion. A "yes" person does not serve a president or a prime minister well. And I can assure you that none of the people who are in the president's cabinet will be "yes" men or "yes" women.
QUESTION: But it's not a one-voice cabinet?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it hasn't haven't formed and met, started the work yet, but my knowledge of the individuals in that cabinet is that it will not be a single voice. There will be different voices representing different perspectives, and different bureaucratic interests, and different approaches to the same problem. There's always an intelligence approach, a diplomatic approach, a military approach. And what you do is, with a good national security system, you integrate all of these approaches and you provide the president with the best recommendations. But at the end of the day, there's only one foreign policy. It's not the State Department's foreign policy; it's not the Defense Department's foreign policy; it's the president's foreign policy.
QUESTION: The New York Times quoted a close associate of yours, and I quote here: "You would have been willing to stay in office if the President had asked you to." Is that true.
SECRETARY POWELL: No. I don't know who this, I have many associates. The president and I agreed that it was time for me to move on. There have been many stories about me meeting with the president and giving him a list of demands of this, that and the other. Those stories are incorrect. The president and I have been discussing this situation for quite some time, a number of months. And it was with appreciation of each other's efforts that we reached agreement that it was time for me to leave.
QUESTION: So what is your best advice for Dr. Condoleezza Rice?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know that she needs any advice from me. She is a very skilled individual. She knows this business well. She has been the National Security Advisor for four years. I stand ready to give her any advice she may ask for, and I look forward to seeing her take over from me. I am sure she will do an excellent job. And the only advice I would give her is advice that she knows well, and that is always serve the president and serve the interest of the American people.
QUESTION: Can you share with us your professional plans for the future?
SECRETARY POWELL: I don't have any. That's a simple answer. I will be the Secretary of State until the day when I am no longer the Secretary of State, and then I will begin to examine what my options are when I return to private life. Already, I have been approached by a number of individuals with ideas, but I will still be in public life in some way, I am sure, even though I will be a private citizen.
QUESTION: Thank you very much.
SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you.