Text Of Powell Interview: Part II

Scott Pelley Interviews Secretary of State

Pelley: Arafat doesn't seem to be siding with us. The President asked him to curb terrorism. He hasn't done that. The Palestinian Authority was caught shipping arms from Iran. Arafat has refused to meet the requirements for a meeting with Vice President Cheney. Why doesn't the United States move against Arafat, and the terrorists in the Palestinian Territories, in the way that we moved against Mullah Omar and the Taliban?

Powell: We have moved against various organizations in the Palestinian Territories. As recently as a few days ago, I designated another one of them as a terrorist organization. And that's well known. So…

Pelley: What do you do with that, Mr. Secretary?

Powell: Well, you started with organizations. So, we start there, and go backwards. With respect to Chairman Arafat, he as not performed in the way that-- we would like to see him perform. But he still has authority. Whether we like it or not. And whether we think he's using it wisely or not. He is seen by the Palestinian people as their leader.

And he is the leader of the Palestinian Authority. And we have taken him to task on every one of these issues that you have described. And we're continuing to do so. As is the European Union, as are some of our Arab friends. And we're putting yet more pressure put on him, from others of our Arab friends.

But as long as he is occupying that role-- not only in the Palestinian community, but throughout the Arab world - it seems to us that it is useful for us to continue to have a dialogue with him, and to keep pressing him and encouraging him to do the right thing. And incentivizing him to do the right thing, by showing that if he does the wrong thing, he will not be successful. If he truly wants to have a state for the Palestinian people.
And so, it seems to us that we are still in a - in a period where it is useful to keep our contacts with him while deploying all of the things that should be deployed. But at the same time, keep an opening to him.

Pelley: Let's speak frankly, Mr. Secretary. You don't trust Arafat. The President doesn't trust him. Do you think the Palestinians would be better served without him?

Powell: Well, that is a question that I will let the Palestinians deal with. The fact of the matter, he is there. And this is not a matter of trust. I come from the old Ronald Reagan school. You will remember from the old days that it's “verify.”

And what we're looking for is verifiable action. Not promises, not statements, but verifiable action on the ground. Now, we had some things moving last week. We really did. We were on the edge of a breakthrough with the Arab summit, with the UN resolutions, with Gen. Zinni's progress. And we lost that last Passover evening. Seder evening.

And what I wanna do is stabilize the situation, bring it down to another level of calm. And see if we can go forward. Because after Israel does its military actions, and we don't know ye thow much Prime Minister Sharon feels he has to do, when that is finished, there will always continue to be the possibility of other suicide bombers.

And it will be important to take that inflection point, as I used to say in the military, when this particular operation has reached some culminating point - we hope it's quickly and soon. And I talked to Prime Minister Sharon about this last night.

And we hope this goes fast, and gets it over with. And we are supporting the UN resolution, that calls for the withdrawal, and a ceasefire. We have to-- when that point comes-- and I'm quite sure it will come-- you will find us ready to engage, and engage rapidly and forcefully, to take advantage of that change, in order to get something moving that will get us back to where we were last week.

Because all of these problems we are having now will only be solved with a negotiation that leads to security for the two peoples. A hope for the Palestinian people to have their own state. Opening of the area, so they can get to their jobs, to their workplaces. Ending the humiliation. And both sides will have to make tough choices.

On the Israeli side, tough choices, with respect to occupation of land. Tough choices, with respect to settlement activity. And on the Palestinian side, a clear recognition, and on the Arab side, a clear recognition that the state of Israel is here forever, and must live side-by-side in peace.

And we have to dismiss those voices on the Arab side that come out of Tehran, or Baghdad, that say we're gonna destroy Israel. It won't happen. And so, the sooner that realization sinks in, the better off we are, and the more rapidly we can move forward.

Pelley: Before we move to Sharon, let me ask you one more question about Arafat. Would the United States be willing to help negotiate his departure? Would the United States be willing to help find a safe haven for Arafat?

Powell: Well, those are, those issues are not on the table right now. We have neither. We have not been asked by either Prime Minister Sharon or Chairman Arafat to enter into such discussions with anybody. So, it's a hypothetical, and I would just as soon not give you a hypothetical answer.

Pelley: You envision a time when the Israelis are gonna let Arafat go? They're gonna let him out of his compound, let him range freely again?

Powell: Well, we'll-- we'll see what happens. I don't want to predict the future. I don't have enough information yet to make a prediction about the future.

Pelley: You spoke to Prime Minister Sharon last night. What did he tell you about how far this goes, and how long it goes?

Powell: We had a long conversation. Over 30 minutes, close to 40 minutes. Typically, we have good, long, thorough conversations. We've gotten to know each other quite well, over the past year-plus.

And he feels that he has to go into these places, to pick up terrorists. To pick up arms and weapons and find suicide bombers. And detail those who might have been responsible for the previous acts of violence, or on the verge of conducting new ones.

He reaffirmed that it is temporary. That he did not intend to occupy any of these on a permanent basis. Any of these places on a permanent basis. And he also reaffirmed to me, that he is committed to the Tenet Work Plan, and to the Mitchell Peace Process.

So, Prime Minister Sharon, while he is doing what he is now doing, recognizes that sooner or later we're gonna have to get back to a track that will lead to negotiations between these two peoples.

Pelley: Mr. Sharon doesn't seem to have an exit strategy. I mean, Mr. Secretary, you talked about picking up terrorists, and picking p arms. Sounds like a police action. But this is a major military incursion into this area.

Powell: Well…

Pelley: Have you told him he's gone too far?

Powell: I will let Mr. Sharon decide whether it's-- whether it should be classified as a police or a military operation. But in some of the places they've gone into, they received the kind of resistance that might make it better to have military rather than police.

What I've encouraged him to do, though, was to show some understanding of the consequences of the actions of the Israeli Defense Force, as he is conducting this operation. I won't speak for him, as to what he thinks his exit strategy is.

But based on the conversations that I've had with him, I think the exit strategy is what I said a moment ago. Sooner or later, when these operations are over, as he has said, we are committed to a process that will get us to negotiations.

Andthe new element that I'm gonna be pressing hard in the days and weeks ahead, is that the political component of this process has to be brought forward much more quickly than we might have thought otherwise. The Palestinian people have to see that there is a political process. And not just a ceasefire and security process.

A political process that we will get involved in early on, through negotiations, which will lead quickly to a Palestinian state. I don't know if it's the final state. Or an interim state, or various other variations have been spoken about. But we're gonna be moving aggressively to try to get into that process and get to political discussions.

Pelley:Let me make sure I understand. You are now saying that a cease-fire is not a necessary first step, before you can move on to the political negotiations.

Powell: They have always been linked. And I don't want to make too much of the sequencing because it's not really that relevant. The basic point is that in order to have negotiations between two parties, there may well be some level of violence.

But if the level of violence is such that you don't think your partner is doing anything about putting in place a cease-fire. And is not committing himself to a cease-fire, and not taking the actions one would expect in a cease-fire, it makes it hard to go forward and have negotiations about the future of these two states.

And so that's why the Tenet Work Plan was created: To give the two sides an opportunity to - step by step, very, very detailed steps. ‘You do this, we'll do that.’ In the first 48 hours, the first several days, the first week. So that we can get a ceasfire that takes hold.

It won't be the total absence of violence. But both sides seriously talking to one another. Exchanging information with one another. Their security officials talking to one another. And develop some confidence between the two sides again, that you can then go in the negotiations, on some more reasonable, rational basis. So, I think it's all linked. It is one process.

Pelley: Mr. Secretary, one of the principal foreign-policy goals of this nation is to oust Saddam Hussein from Iraq. How do you do that, when every Arab nation is aligned against us, with regard to Israel and Palestine?

Powell: Well, we continue to examine what options are available to the international community, and to the United States. In the first instance, we're working multilaterally within the UN to make sure the sanctions remain on the Iraqi regime. And we've had some success in recent days, working with other members of the Security Council.

What we have said to our Arab friends is you may not see Saddam Hussein the same way we do. But you ought to. Because those weapons of mass destruction that he is developing - chemical, biological, nuclear - they're more likely than not, directed at one of you, than us. He'll have a harder time getting it to us. And he has demonstrated in the past, he will use it. He has gassed Iranians. He has gassed his own people. He invaded Kuwait.

So, there may be a little bit of patience with him, on the part of the Arab nations with him right now. But I'm quite sure that not one of them would-- really-- wring their hands, or cry too long if the regime was overthrown.

NEXT: Conclusion of the Interview