Text Of Powell Interview: Part III

The Mideast and Afghanistan

Powell: To move against Iraq with no Arab support in sight.

Powell: Nothing is impossible. We have enormous capabilities available to us. But obviously, I would not be forthcoming and I would not be straight with you if I said the situation in the Middle East between the Israelis and the Palestinians did not affect our situation throughout the region. We understand that. But at the same time, we can not let Saddam Hussein or the authorities in Tehran in Iran or the authorities in Syria conduct terrorist activities and support terrorist organizations using the Middle East conflict as an excuse for those terrorist organizations.

To some extent, their support for their kind of terrorist activity is fueling the crisis in the Middle East. So, rather than saying we've got to solve that in order to deal with them, they're the ones that are contributing to this problem. And what the President said in his remarks after Sept. 11 is, it's time to stop that.

If you really, you know, if you really want to get serious and you want to join a world that is moving forward, it's time to stop that kind of support of terrorist activity. And the President will continue to point out the nature of these regimes and why we view them in such a light.

Pelley: Just a few quick questions on al-Qaida. Do you believe that Osama bin Laden is alive today?

Powell: I have no idea. I don't know if he's alive or dead. We haven't seen or heard much from him for some time now. And he used to be, you know, a frequent appearer on television with videotape. And he simply hasn't been seen or heard from recently. But I have no knowledge of whether he is alive or dead.

Pelley: There's no intelligence suggesting that he's still alive.

Powell: There is no intelligence suggesting he is alive or dead.

Pelley: Do you have any supposition on where he might be? If we're looking for Osama bin Laden, where are we looking?

Powell: Well, we are-- we don't know where he might be. We have all kinds of candidate locations if he is alive. Parts of rural Afghanistan. Or he might have slipped over the border into a neighboring country. We just don't know. And the intelligence did not tell us. But we have been quite successful in recent weeks as a result of our efforts in Afghanistan and as a result of the fine efforts of our Pakistani colleagues in rounding up a number of al-Qaida organizational leaders. And a lot of information, a lot of intelligence information that we will be using. And detained a number of individuals we will be interrogating. And hopefully, over time, a case will be built as to whether he's alive or dead and where he might be. The President has said we will not get tired. We will continue to pursue this to the end.

Pelley: The President must be impatient, though. It's been a long time.

Powell: Oh, it's been about six and a half, seven months. All of us, we're Americans. We tend to be impatient. But the President knew that that impatience factor would creep in. So, from the very first week, he said this will take time. It may take a few weeks, a few months or a few years. Whatever it takes, we're in it for the long haul. And he made a personal commitment that I will not get weary. I will not let this slide away as other agenda items and priorities come along. I will stay with it. And he has given us that instruction. And I can assure you all of the security advisors ... what we are about.

Pelley: Last week, the FBI and Pakistani forces captured Abu Zubaydah, the highest ranking al-Qaida operative to fall into U.S. hands. Essentially, bin Laden's chief of staff. He was shot three times during that raid. Do you expect he'll live?

Powell: Well, I-- I hear we-- there are reports that he has been captured. And he may well have been. I don't want to confirm it at 100 percent because that's a function of other organizations of our government. But my understanding of the individual who might be that gentleman is that he will survive his injuries. And if possible identification is made at the 100 percent level, then there should be a lot of information forthcoming.

Pelley: Where is he now?

Powell: Oh, I don't talk about those matters.

Pelley: Is he talking?

Powell: I don't talk about such matters.

Pelley: If he does talk, what kinds of things could he tell us?

Powell: We'll wait and see what he tells us.

Pelley: Mr. Secretary, you've been talking to foreign ministers all around the world. It seems that there are very few countries in this world that are siding with us in favor of the Israeli incursion. The U.N. is siding with the Palestinians. The European Union is siding with the Palestinians. The Pope today sided with the Palestinians. Are we alone on this?

Powell: No. We side with the Palestinians, too. We side with both the Israelis and the Palestinians. We are working for the interests of both of those people. One is a nation, one is an authority that hopes to become a nation.

We have support of the U.N. resolution that asks for the withdrawal of Israeli forces. And I'm in constant contact with Mr. Sharon making the point that this is an operation that has to have, you know, an end in the not too distant future. So I don't think there's anything inconsistent in that.

I think all of the nations and groups you just touched on also recognize a legitimate right of self-defense. Now, you could argue about whether that is-- you know, meets everything's standard as to what-- Israel is doing. But we understand the terrible situation that the prime minister finds himself in.

When he commits to Tenet and Mitchell, when he is open to discussion with General Zinni and 25 people are killed, you know, on Passover. And a bomb goes off every day, some days, two bombs a day. And so I don't know of any of these leaders who are critical what they would do if they were in the same position.

Having said that, we also know that this ultimately-- and not ultimately in the long-term, but I hope in the short-term-- has to come to an end, will come to an end. He is committed to return his troops back to their post. And we will find ourselves getting this process started again, getting a new cease-fire and into a negotiation.

I hope both sides will come out of this with a clear understanding that the actions we have seen in recent weeks and the kinds of strategies that have been adopted all take us off but bring us right back to the need for a cease-fire. All of us working together for a cease-fire and then into negotiations quickly for a political solution.

Pelley: Is your message to Sharon that he's gone far--

Powell: Our message to Prime Minister Sharon is what I will convey to him when next I speak to him. And what I said to him is that a cost is being paid in the international community and Israeli standing in the international community. And the cost is being paidfrankly, in terms of U.S. interest as a result of what's happening now. And that he has to take that into consideration.

And I know he is taking that into consideration. Just as candidly expressed this back to me. 'I know that but I go to funerals every day, I have to do something about the security of the Israeli people.' That was a platform upon which he ran when he was elected to be the prime minister. And Mr. (Ehud)Barak, the previous prime minister, and the... that he was trying to conclude with the President Clinton and the Clinton administration came to an end.

Sharon came in because the Israeli people said, "We tried for peace; we're not getting there. Now we have to have security in our homes and places." The Palestinian people need security. They need to be free from humiliation at checkpoints. They need to be free to go to their jobs. They need to be free to educate their children. They need to be free to build their economy. They need to be free to pursue their own destiny.

And we are as committed to that. I am as committed to that as I am to the security of Israel. We have to do this for both people. And that will be my goal, and that will be my objective.

Pelley: Thank you, sir.
  • David Kohn

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