Powell On Mideast, Afghanistan

Colin Powell APEC Shanghai American business leaders

The following is a transcript of an interview Friday of Secretary of State Colin Powell by CBS News Anchor Dan Rather on Friday. The Secretary was in Washington, Rather in New York.

RATHER: A State Department official says, and I quote, that an accidental meeting or handshake between President Bush and Yasser Arafat could take place during the U.N. General Assembly in New York. What's that about?

POWELL: There's no plan for President Bush to meet with Chairman Arafat. Chairman Arafat is in New York this week and I hope that I'll be able to meet with him, and we're working on that, so that we can continue our discussions about how we can get closer to a cease-fire and get into the Mitchell peace plan process that will lead the negotiations. But there are no plans for the president and Mr. Arafat to meet.

RATHER: I'm sure you're aware that there are reports circulating that the administration will be making a - quote - major announcement about the Palestinian question. Can you tell us anything about that?

POWELL: I've seen such reports. We are always reviewing our Middle East policy and making statements in due course as appropriate. The president may touch on it in his speech [Saturday] at the United Nations, but it won't be a comprehensive statement...We're looking at a comprehensive statement that we might make in the not-too-distant future.

RATHER: But that won't be coming over the weekend.

POWELL: I would not expect it over the weekend, other than perhaps a reference in the president's speech [Saturday] morning.

RATHER: Mr. Secretary, in your judgement, would U.S. support for a Palestinian state be of an advantage to us in our present war effort?

POWELL: Yes, I think it would and I think it is. President Bush is the first Republican president to put it on the record that his vision includes a Palestinian state. Mr. Sharon has said the same thing, Foreign Minister Peres says it regularly, and I have said it on a number of occasions. We believe that U.N. resolutions 242 and 338 that involve land for peace anticipate that in due course a Palestinian state will be created so that the Palestinian people will have a home that they can call their own to live side-by-side and in peace and with mutual security with the Israeli neighbors.

RATHER: But in the present circumstance, taking everything into account, what will that do to our relationship with Israel?

POWELL: I think it would improve our relationship with Israel, because this Palestinian state would have to come into being by mutual agreement between the two sides, in order for it to be viable. And that would suggest the processes moving forward to the point where trust has been rebuilt, confidence has been rebuilt between the two sides and the level of violence has gone down to some very [minimal] level so that they could move forward and acept some of the risks that might come with this arrangement. So I think it is a vision that is shared by the United States, certainly shared by the Palestinian people, and shared by the state of Israel.

RATHER: If you could get Yasser Arafat to do one thing right away, what would it be?

POWELL: If I could get Mr. Arafat to do one thing and, um, it depends upon whether it's in his power to do this one thing, and there's debate about that, it's to end all the violence right away, and that would give us the circumstances and conditions where we could then say to the Israelis, "Fine, it's now time to begin all the openings so that Palestinians can get to places of work, commerce can get started again going back and forth across these checkpoints and blockages, and we can get to into the Mitchell peace plan, increase the level of confidence between the two sides and then get back to peace negotiations.

RATHER: And if you have Ariel Sharon do one thing just like that, what would that be?

POWELL: Right now we have asked them to do one thing and that is to, as quickly as possible, immediately if possible — he'll have to make that judgement — immediately, get the Israeli defense forces to withdraw from the Area A villages. They've made quite a bit of progress over the last week in doing that and I hope that in the next several days they'll be able to remove their forces from those two remaining villages. That would get us to a state, I think, where we can begin getting back to the path we were on a few weeks ago before the Israeli minister was killed, which sort of derailed us from the path we were on that time. I'd like to get back to where we were about a month ago, and I'd can see a way forward if I can get back to that point.

RATHER: Mr. Secretary, is it important for us to have a military base, even an airstrip, in Afghanistan, such as Mazar-e-Sharif?

POWELL: I think an airbase under our control in northern Afghanistan would facilitate a number of things that include humanitarian relief operations, but it is not absolutely essential to the campaign that we are conducting now. The campaign is going well, we've seen progress within the last few days and some progress being reported today. But we have to be patient and we have to remember that we've come into Afghanistan with a first-world air force and now we're linking up our first-world air force with third-world ground forces that are becoming more capable by the day, with a re-supply and ammunition being supplied by us as well as very, very brave American soldiers on the ground assisting them and showing them how best to do a ground attack against the kind of enemy they're facing and how best to integrate what a first-world air force can do for you.

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