Iraq's Odious Debts

Interview with U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell on Echo Moskvy Radio

Washington File
May 15, 2003

Moscow, Russia

SECRETARY POWELL: Good morning, how are you?

QUESTION (as translated): Our colleagues said this visit was not successful because we failed to reach an agreement on lifting the sanctions. Was the visit successful or not?

SECRETARY POWELL: It was very successful. President Putin and I had a chance to review all of the bilateral issues that exist between the United States and Russia and to talk about regional issues. Although we had a disagreement over the war in Iraq, we are now working together to try to find agreement on the new resolution before the United Nations. In this regard, we are unified in trying to find a resolution that will help the Iraqi people to a better life.

QUESTION: To lift sanctions, is it necessary for a new resolution?

SECRETARY POWELL: We believe it is because the sanctions were imposed by the United Nations, and so it is appropriate to take the issue back to the United Nations in order for the sanctions to be lifted so that we can begin to market oil that would provide revenue for the Iraqi people. If we don’t get the sanctions lifted, there may be some legal problems with respect to the marketing of oil.

Let me make it clear, however, that the sale of oil is strictly for the purpose of benefiting the Iraqi people. There may be other ways to do it, but the neatest way, the easiest, the best way to do it would be to let the international community deal with the problem with sanctions and lift them by UN resolution.

QUESTION: So Putin did not say he would impose a veto?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, we did not have to talk about that because we are working with the Russian side to satisfy their concerns. What we’re looking for is a UN resolution that everybody can agree to in the Security Council because it’s a resolution that will help the Iraqi people. The issue of veto or extension or voting, that wasn’t an issue yesterday. Yesterday, we discussed the specific elements of a resolution that the Russian side is interested in.

This is typical diplomatic action. One side, one of the members, puts down a resolution and then it is debated, other points of view are held, and we negotiate a resolution that hopefully everybody can agree to.

I was impressed by the spirit of cooperation shown by President Putin and by Foreign Minister Ivanov. We are approaching it with that same spirit of cooperation.

QUESTION: In Russian “diplomat” is synonymous with a person who doesn’t speak the truth straight out. We think the military speak plainly. So, as a general and a diplomat, tell us what were the contents of the bottle you showed to everyone at the UN.

SECRETARY POWELL: The container that I showed was a simulant; it wasn’t actually a nerve agent. I would never have brought anything dangerous into the UN. It was a simulation of the kind of biological and chemical agents that we knew the Iraqis were developing. It was to illustrate how dangerous that amount of material could be if it was real. And the Iraqis had not accounted for tons and tons and tons of such material. Diplomats can tell the truth just as easily as generals.

QUESTION: Have you found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: We’re still looking. We have many hundreds of soldiers and experts who are looking at all of the different sites throughout Iraq to locate weapons of mass destruction. We have found some trailers that contain equipment inside of them that look like the material that I presented to the United Nations, but we want to make absolutely sure, so those trailers, those mobile vans that we have found, are undergoing the most intense analysis now.

Even the Iraqis themselves admitted that they had done all of these things, that they had these programs, and when the UN passed its resolution, it was with the understanding that Iraq did have such programs. The programs had been established by previous inspection regimes, but Iraq had not accounted for the disposition of these programs or what they had remaining.

QUESTION: This is the second question taken from our Internet subscriber, Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg. Would you welcome Russian peacekeeping forces in Iraq?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it’s up for Russia to decide how best they can support. We are anxious for the Russian Federation to provide support to our efforts in Iraq. I don’t know if peacekeeping troops are exactly what would be the appropriate contribution, but I think a financial contribution, making a contribution of humanitarian aid, contribution of hospital support, medical supplies, all of that would be welcome. So, we’ll be in touch with our Russian colleagues to see what would be appropriate for the Russian Federation to provide for the humanitarian activities in Iraq and for the reconstruction of Iraq.

QUESTION: That was a diplomatic answer. Now answer as a general.

SECRETARY POWELL: As a general, I will leave this matter to the generals because right now the coalition military forces are examining what their military needs on the ground are. Different countries are examining what contributions they can make. Peacekeeping zones are being established. The Polish are going to be responsible for one of the zones, and the British for another part of the zone, and the United States for another part of the zone. And contributions are being solicited, but I will leave it to my military colleagues to determine what the specific needs are from what countries.

QUESTION: We’ll now conduct a three-minute survey. Is the U.S. more of an ally or an opponent. Then we’d like you to comment.

SECRETARY POWELL: The United States and Russia are partners. We have been working on many things together. We have just completed ratification of the treaty that will reduce the number of strategic weapons that both sides hold. We have a very vigorous exchange of ministers. Our Agriculture Minister, Energy Minister, and all of our commerce experts are coming here to work with the Russian side on improving trade. We’re working on the WTO and how to help Russia come into the WTO.

QUESTION: Who is Mr. Putin?

SECRETARY POWELL: Mr. Putin is, of course, the distinguished President of the Russian Federation, a good friend of President Bush. They have a very solid relationship. A man who understands the importance of having a good relationship with the United States and has worked toward that end. A man who understands the need for better trade relations and better strategic relationship between the two, and a President who understands that we need to cooperate on a number of global issues, fighting drugs, fighting terrorism, those kinds of issues.

QUESTION: Did you discuss Iraq’s debt to Russia?

SECRETARY POWELL: We didn’t discuss it yesterday, but I’m well aware of the issue because I have discussed it previously with Foreign Minister Ivanov. We estimate that Iraq has, to countries around the world roughly $100 [billion] to $120 billion worth of debt, of which $8 billion is Russian debt. As we move forward, we expect that we will have to examine this debt to find out how best to deal with it, either by stretching it out, or refinancing it. I’m sure the new Iraqi Government will take fully into account its obligation to the Russian Federation.

QUESTION: Here’s a question from Interfax. Are you trying to prepare public opinion for a redeployment of your troops from Iraq to Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, in fact, we are concerned about what Iran is doing. We have shared our concerns with our Russian friends, and we believe Russia also has some concerns. We will work with the international community to persuade Iran that they should not move in this direction. We don’t need any more weapons of mass destruction, especially nuclear weapons in this part of the world, but it is not a matter for the Armed Forces of the United States at the moment.

QUESTION: Does President Putin share your concern about nuclear weapons in Iran?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, he does, and we discussed it yesterday. That is nuclear development, not weapons, but programs that could lead to that. Neither the United States nor the Russian Federation would like to see a program that goes in the direction of developing a nuclear weapon in Iran.

QUESTION: We’ve received many questions from our listeners about why American troops did not do a better job protecting Iraq’s national treasures.

SECRETARY POWELL: Our troops were involved in fighting battles, and they couldn’t be everywhere at once. It turns out there wasn’t as much looting as was suggested. Many of the items had been put in other places for safekeeping, and many of the items are now coming back. There are some things missing, but it is nowhere near the catastrophe that it was originally believed to be. And we’re working with agencies around the world to recover any items that might show up in the antiquities market.

QUESTION: Russia is still very much affected by losses during the Second World War. Were you or your family affected by that conflict?

SECRETARY POWELL: I was a young boy during the Second World War — five, six, seven years old — but it is very vivid in my mind. Many of my uncles went to the war. We know what war is, too. I have vivid memories of the Russian sacrifices of that time during your Great Patriotic War.

I have a very vivid memory in 1945 when the war was over, how the United States and, at that time the Soviet Union, were bound together as friends and allies. And then as a soldier, I watched how we descended into the Cold War for over 40 years. At the end of my military career, I watched the Cold War go away with pleasure. Now I’m honored, toward the end of my active life, to see the United States and the Russian Federation once again partners, friends, working together for the cause of peace as we once did in the 1940’s during the period of the Great War.

QUESTION: The last question concerns our survey. 4,882 calls in four minutes. 63 percent consider the USA to be an ally of Russia, and 37 percent consider the USA to be an enemy. Your comment?

SECRETARY POWELL: I’m very pleased with that, and I think as people study the relationship between the United States and Russia and see how it’s progressing, the 63 (percent) will go up even higher because we are partners, we are working together. We are two democracies that have different points of view on different issues. We will debate those points of view, but I think we have so much in common that it should be clear to all Americans and all Russians that the United States and Russia are friends and partners.

QUESTION: Last question — what do you expect from the President Bush-Vladimir Putin meeting in St. Petersburg? Is it a purely formal protocol meeting, or will it be a substantive meeting?

SECRETARY POWELL: President Putin and I discussed this yesterday. There is too much work to be done for these to be just a protocol occasions. And I’m sure they will talk about trade issues, about issues relating to space cooperation. They will discuss regional issues, Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan.

I’m sure they will discuss Jackson-Vanik. We want to get rid of Jackson-Vanik. The President is committed to that. It is something left over from the past, and we’re still working with our Congress. It is a difficult political issue, but the President is determined to pursue the repeal of Jackson-Vanik.

Every time our two presidents get together there is always an expression of good will, but work is always conducted. It is never just protocol. President Bush is looking forward very much to returning to St. Petersburg and meeting with President Putin.

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State)

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