The White House, President George W. Bush Click to print this document

For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 5, 2004

Press Briefing by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the Traveling Press Pool
Aboard Air Force One
En Route Paris, France

1:49 P.M. (Local)

SECRETARY POWELL: I just got off the phone with Ambassador Negroponte, getting an update on how things are going with respect to the U.N. resolution. So I'll brief you on that. But let me kind of lead up to it by giving you the history over the last couple of weeks.

We began thinking and working on a resolution a long time ago, and we first broached it with our key partners as to what we thought should be in such a resolution when I had the G8 ministerial meeting in Washington on the 14th of May. At that time, with all of the G8 foreign ministers there, in a one-on-one session with them, we talked about the resolution, what we thought was needed -- full sovereignty, making sure that the world understood that the CPA was going away. We made it clear that we wanted the resolution to invite other nations to participate in the reconstruction effort, or the effort to help the Iraqi people move forward, whether it's with debt relief or additional financial assistance, reconstruction assistance, or additional troops.

There was quite a discussion on the military relationship between the forces that are remaining behind without the CPA, the coalition forces, and the new sovereign government. We took into account everything we heard from the G8 ministers and, the Monday before last, we tabled the first draft of a resolution that accommodated all of the suggestions that were made.

Over the last almost -- it will be two weeks Monday, we had other comments come in. We've gone to the usual resolution drafting process, and as of this morning, we are very, very close to completing the work. An essential part that came into the puzzle today, a piece of the puzzle was we now have, heading to New York, a letter from Prime Minister Allawi, interim Prime Minister Allawi, setting out the terms and circumstances under which he would like to see the coalition forces present in the country and how they would work with the interim Iraqi government. His letter lays out a series of committee -- a committee structure where there would be political-to-political, and political-to-military dialogue about the strategy that would be followed, the broad policy on the use of forces, and how we would deal with any sensitive -- the policy on sensitive offensive operations that might be contemplated, so that everybody would have a common understanding of what we are doing.

Not only would he have this committee at the senior level of government to work with the Coalition Provisional Authority military component -- no longer CPA, but the coalition forces -- he intends to have this kind of committee structure going all the way down throughout the country, so that throughout the country, Iraqi authorities would be in contact with the coalition military authorities present to make sure there is full coordination and understanding of the operations that are being planned.

At all times, Iraqi forces remain under the overall command of the Iraqi sovereign government, the interim government. Obviously, they can permit those forces to work with our coalition forces for particular operations, but every nation always retains command sovereignty over its own forces. We do' the Brits do; the Ukrainians do; the Romanians do; and the Iraqis do. These Iraqi forces work for their generals under their Ministry of Defense, or if they're police forces, under their Ministry of Interior, or other relevant bodies.

So Mr. Allawi has sent that letter now. I don't know if it's actually signed, but it's on the way to New York. I will respond to that letter on behalf of the coalition, acknowledging his letter and responding in a positive vein. So there will be an exchange of letters. These two letters are important in that it will show the Security Council members what the military arrangement is. And as you know, Ambassador Negroponte is at a retreat with Kofi Annan, their annual retreat of Permanent Representatives. And with these letters available to the, I think they'll have pretty good discussions today, and remaining issues in the resolution proper I expect to be resolved in the next couple of days.

Q So I understand that these letters -- is this all outside the language of the resolution, or would the resolution specify this arrangement between the interim government and the coalition?

SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution will -- in the resolution you'll find a reference to these letters. And the letters -- here is the technical detail -- the letters will need to be annexes to the resolution, or in some diplomatic way, whatever the U.N. procedure is, they'll be made a part of the resolution understanding. Some -- either incorporated by reference -- certainly incorporated by reference, because there is a reference, or maybe even annexes. I'll let the parliamentarians figure that out. But you will find that the letters are totally consistent with the intent, purpose and language of the resolution, and it is not something that is outside the bounds of the resolution.

Q Just to make this really simple -- so these letters set down in writing the agreement between the Iraqi government and the coalition, which says, we want you to maintain troops here; we want you to assure security, and we're going to put that in writing, so we invite you to be here; and then through these letters we're setting up a process where we coordinate, so if there's an offensive -- if there's an issue, we have a process in place to work through any issues we may have.

SECRETARY POWELL: Right. And it says that any policy issues with respect to sensitive offensive operations will be discussed with these entities that are being created. Now, if there's disagreement, then, obviously, you can take it up to higher levels. But we have put in place a coordinating mechanism so that everybody knows what our policy is, what our strategy is going to be.

And, frankly, we have been doing this on the ground. I mean, what we did in Fallujah reflects an understanding not only of the military problem we were facing, but the political context in which we were dealing with that military problem.

Same thing in the south now. Najaf is starting to improve. We've gotten some interesting reports today that maybe weapons are starting to be turned in in the south. So patience, understanding the political context in which you're using military forces -- gee, this sounds vaguely familiar but -- understanding the political context in which you're using military forces, that's all contained in this letter. It's an invitation, it's a welcoming, it's a recognition that they can't provide for their own security yet. It says clearly they want to build up their forces as quickly as possible, so they can do it for themselves. But they expressed appreciation for what we are doing, thankfulness, and then the letter goes on to describe in specificity the mechanisms that will be created and what these mechanisms are for.

Q Do we know what the French attitude is? I'm sorry, do we know what the French attitude is towards this?

SECRETARY POWELL: The French have not yet seen the letter. They'll see it in the course of the day. But I think they will find it very responsive. We have been in very close touch with the French recently. And I have been in regular touch with Foreign Minister Barnier. And I think we have dealt with almost all of the issues that have been raised through a good series of dialogue and discussion in New York with Jack Straw, the other co-sponsoring nation Foreign Secretary talking to his colleagues, me talking to the same guys. And we're getting there. It's only been 10 days; not bad.

Q How do you resolve the French concern, because it still seems to me --

SECRETARY POWELL: What French concern?

Q That they would like the interim government to, in effect, have a final say over military operations, which you and others have ruled out publicly. What you seem to be saying is, this will ameliorate the situation, because the Iraqis are saying, hey, this is okay with us, we've got a lot of coordination here --

SECRETARY POWELL: Sovereignty means sovereignty. And this is an arrangement between this sovereign government and the coalition forces that are there at the invitation of that sovereign government. So if the arrangement is acceptable to the sovereign government, and to the coalition forces --

Q Does the letter give the United States final say?

SECRETARY POWELL: The letter is as I have described it. And we all know that every government ultimately has sovereignty over its own forces. The Iraqis have sovereignty over theirs. So we're setting up a strawman problem that I don't think is going to exist. The French, when they look at this, I think they will see that the Iraqis are pleased that we are there, are pleased that we are willing to participate in these instrumentalities of coordination and consultation. And they already have seen in a practical sense how these sorts of things will work in Fallujah and in the south. And so if the new sovereign government is satisfied, it would seem to me that should satisfy all of my colleagues in the Security Council. And the work that we have been doing on the resolution suggests they have a pretty good understanding of what we're working out with the Iraqis on the ground. But I have to wait and see what they might say after they actually read the letters today.

Q Does the resolution spell out -- will the resolution spell out the specific command structure of exactly who is in charge and what authority each government has over its own forces?

SECRETARY POWELL: The resolution won't go into that level of detail, because that really is something for the sovereign government, the Iraqi interim government, to work out with the coalition. And the resolution will say that such arrangements have been made in these letters, which are incorporated by reference or an annex, so everybody can see what that sovereign has arranged with coalition authorities. And what the U.N. is voting for when they vote for this resolution, and when they know that there is a reference in this resolution to these letters -- they will have seen the letters, but you don't need to put all that exquisite detail from the letter into the resolution.

Q -- you expect approval in the next few days, or -- did you say you expected approval?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm always reluctant -- I'm sure -- but I didn't say how many few days. (Laughter.)

Q But does the Security Council --

SECRETARY POWELL: We're moving along well.

Q -- Security Council approval?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes. The Security Council, I think, is moving well. The number of outstanding issues has been declining every day. We're getting into exquisite technical issues now. And so I'm confident within a few days we'll be there. We are in end game.

Q When did the letters go --

SECRETARY POWELL: The letters -- Mr. Allawi, Prime Minister Allawi looked them over -- looked at them again overnight, and communicated to Ambassador Bremer today, this morning, that he is satisfied with the letter. And the letter is now -- has now been communicated back to us. I've got a copy and there's a copy now available to Ambassador Negroponte for his use. Ambassador Negroponte also has access to the return letter, the letter I send back, which really, technically, will go through the President of the Security Council, the Filipino Foreign Minister.

Q As he pointed out, it's 10 days, which is, I think, very fast for the Security Council.

SECRETARY POWELL: Fourteen days on -- Monday will make the 14th day since we tabled the first version.

Q And do you think the difference this time, perhaps compared to the last round's Security resolution for Iraq is that there was just more willingness to move on the other side, or you had more latitude to meet the concerns raised by other Security Council members?

SECRETARY POWELL: We wanted to meet the concerns raised by all of our colleagues in the Security Council, as long as they were reasonable concerns. We were looking for a good resolution that accomplished the purpose we set out to accomplish -- full sovereignty, but a clear understanding of the relationship between the military and the new sovereign government. And everybody wanted to be forthcoming. There was never -- in the last three weeks, since I met with the G8 ministers on the 14th of May, and all through the three drafts that we tabled, never a suggestion that anybody wanted a veto. I did not have a single veto threat out there. The only question was, can we get it unanimous. You know, we won't know that until they vote. But I'm very encouraged. And the four resolutions we've taken to a vote have all been unanimous. I leave aside the resolution we didn't take to a vote.

Q There was talk about a fixed date for withdrawal, the French, the Russians, the Chinese wanted. Have you beaten that back?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have arrived at a language that deals with this. And it picks up from the earlier Resolution 1511 that essentially says the mandate will be reviewed in a year, or earlier, and it is anticipated that the mandate will go through the end of 2005, which is the end of the political process. And that picks up from 1511.

Needless to say, a sovereign government can choose to say, we're fine, we've got all of our own troops up now, thank you very much, would you think about leaving now, or, hey, look, we need you to stay longer, in which case, we can consider that. But the political process, as we know it, in terms of 1511, is through the end of 2005. And at that point, we expect decisions to be made. But it's a sovereign government, so we want to leave it in their sovereign hands as to whether they will continue to need help, or not. But I think the language you come up with should satisfy what my permanent members -- colleagues were asking for.

Q I wonder if on the Tenet resignation, in your judgment, do you think he did the right thing in stepping down, given the apparent intelligence lapses of his tenure, particularly on Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: George stepped down for personal reasons. I think he did a tremendous job over a long period of time. He's a close colleague. I will miss working with him. He will always be a close friend. And he stepped down for personal reasons, and I have no reason to believe anything other than that.

Q Do you think the CIA needed a change in leadership about now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think if George had decided to stay on, it would have certainly been the President's desire, and I would have enjoyed continuing to work with him.

Q But you do think there needs to be some accountability for what are apparent intelligence lapses? You've, I think, said that publicly.

SECRETARY POWELL: I think Director Tenet believes that we should find out what lapses existed. He had launched inquiries. And as you know, the President has launched an inquiry with Mr. Silberman and Mr. Robb. So we should always find out where we didn't get it right, where there were weaknesses, not overlooking all the times we do get it right and all the successes that we do have from time to time.

But in the case of Mr. Tenet, the President would be pleased if he had continued to serve, and I know I can say that in the President's name because he said it. And I would have liked to see George stay.

Q Back to the resolution, was there any single event that caused everything to fall into place, or was it just simply a lot of hard work that eventually --

SECRETARY POWELL: There was a lot of hard work, and what you have to do with one of these resolutions is you throw out a version, you put out a version, knowing that it will be modified as you go along. And then you seek to gain from that first draft what the points of disagreement are or what the needs are from others for more. And you try to narrow it down to some key issues.

And we were able to do that within a few days. We knew that they wanted a firm date of the end of December, 2005, and not just -- not touching on that. So we knew that had to be dealt with. We knew that there would be a desire to make sure there was no confusion about full sovereignty. And we thought we had dealt with that, but there were others who wanted stronger language, and we put that in.

It's always presented as concessions given, but really, it is the process of negotiating a resolution. I've been through a number of them now and they all tend to follow this pattern. Sometimes they're very hard, like 1441, which took seven-and-a-half weeks. Sometimes they're very easy, like 1483, 1500 -- 1511 took a bit of time. And this one -- it isn't passed yet, but I expect that it will -- it will pass in the not too distant future.

Q Do you know anything about --

Q -- recently reported -- I think it was The Post -- that you had requested an intelligence review particular to the information you used in your U.N. presentation. Have you gotten answers back on that yet?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think it was the New York Times, and I don't know what they're referring to. I didn't ask for that. I don't know. It was a New York Times story, if I'm not mistaken.

Q And you didn't ask for any review of the information --

SECRETARY POWELL: I know -- I know that the information is being reviewed by Director Tenet's own investigatory committees, and I know that Mr. Silberman and Senator Robb are conducting an inquiry. But I did not ask for a specific inquiry. Of course, I am constantly interested and curious as to what we might have done better. But I did not ask, as the reporter said -- I think it was a New York Times story -- I did not ask for a specific inquiry, and -- even though that's what the reporter wrote.

Q Do you know any -- do you know anything about President Reagan's condition?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I do not. I just hear the rumors that everybody hears. But I don't know anything and I have nothing to say.

Q One last process thing. So do you expect, if the headline out of today, from your point of view, is about the Allawi letters coming in, you really think that this is the final push to get the resolution, should resolve the outstanding --

SECRETARY POWELL: I would say that with the receipt of the Allawi letter, this pushes us much closer to the finish line with respect to the resolution. But with a resolution, like with a football game, it's -- or basketball game, it's not over until the buzzer goes and we watch the last ball --

Q -- it's come up, will the President deal with this, you think, in this level of detail, about the letter? Will he confer with President Chirac about this this afternoon, do you think?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm sure it will be a subject of discussion, but I wouldn't expect them --

Q You wouldn't expect it to be definitive, you'll wait for the --

Q They're not going to negotiate, in other words?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, no, no, the letter's finished. There's nothing to be negotiated. It's the letter from a sovereign prime minister. And I'm sure Foreign Minister Barnier might have some opportunity to discuss it. But I'm sure the two Presidents will certainly note it. It's a major step forward toward getting the resolution. I'm sure they'll welcome it warmly. And I sense the French are anxious to bring this to -- anxious to bring this to a closure.

Q You view this as a real opportunity to put U.S.-French relations back on a more consistent and friendly course?

SECRETARY POWELL: We had a big disappointment last year on the Iraqi matter, but I think things have been improving once we came together after the war and realized that we had a common obligation to work together to help the Iraqi people. So I think relations have been improving. The President indicated such when he gave an interview last week that you all have seen. And I'm sure that today's meetings, as well as the -- just the pageantry of Normandy tomorrow, will remind everybody of the shared values we have with our European friends, especially our French friends, one of our oldest friends in the world, and the first friend we had in the world, that came to our help. So there are ups and down in relationships, but we have shared values, and now we have a common interest to help the people of Iraq.

Q Thank you.


END 2:05 P.M. (Local)

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