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09 January 2004

Decisions on Trial of Saddam Hussein Up to Iraqis, Powell Says

Secretary also discusses Afghanistan, Pakistan in CBS interview

Secretary of State Colin Powell said it is up to the Iraqi people how they put their captured former leader Saddam Hussein on trial, and he added that "the credibility of the new Iraqi government will be measured by how they handle this horrible dictator."

Interviewed January 9 on CBS Radio, Powell said the Iraqi Governing Council is preparing judicial proceedings against Saddam Hussein and bringing in experts to help them develop charges. International observers will participate in the trial, Powell said.

Asked about the extent of public support in Iraq and Afghanistan for U.S. efforts to rid those countries of "tyrannical regimes," Powell noted that in Afghanistan two million refugees have returned. As for Iraq, he said, "I think most Iraqis ... look forward to working with us to put in place a democratic system of government."

Following is a transcript of the Powell interview:

(begin transcript)

Office of the Spokesman

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
On CBS Radio with Dan Raviv and Charles Wolfson

January 9, 2004
Washington, D.C.

MR. RAVIV: We have moved the broadcast just a few blocks, here in Washington, D.C., to the State Department, to the Secretary of State's conference room, where we are lucky to have an exclusive interview with the Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Thank you so much for sitting down with us.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much. Delighted to have the opportunity to speak to your listeners.

MR. RAVIV: And I'm happy to say that you look great, coming back from your prostate cancer surgery. Congratulations on looking great. A good recovery.

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, thank you. The recovery is continuing and I'm glad they got it all. I hope all men will be careful about their health, especially with respect to prostate cancer.

MR. RAVIV: We are joined by CBS News State Department reporter Charles Wolfson. Charlie, you are here all the time, but maybe not seeing the Secretary like this. We have about eight minutes or so, so take the first question, Charlie.

MR. WOLFSON: Mr. Secretary, we are starting 2004. It's the fourth year of the Bush presidency. You've got an ambitious agenda. We don't have time for you to list everything you want to list.

What are the number one, number two objectives this year, so that a year from now you could look back and say we had a successful year diplomatically?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, there are so many things that I could list, but I won't, Charlie. We're going to continue to move forward on the President's vision of extending peace and security throughout the world, bringing more prosperity to more parts of the world, and bringing freedom to more parts of the world by the power of example and the programs the President has put in place.

We want to work hard to consolidate our victories in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have seen considerable progress in Afghanistan with the constitutional Loya Jirga, and we believe we are on track now to put in place a transitional government in Iraq by the middle of the summer.

At the same time, we have to work hard on security, to make sure that we get these old remnants of the regime swept up. A major priority, of course, will be the global war on terrorism to make sure that our homeland is safe and we are defeating terrorists all around the world.

But there are other parts of the agenda that I would like to touch on, such as the Millennium Challenge Account, the most significant increase in foreign assistance and development aid since the Marshall Plan of post-World War II fame, and going after HIV/AIDS around the world. The President feels so strongly that this is a devastating disease, a devastating affliction upon the world, that all of us have to come together to work on it.

That's just a few of the highlights. The Middle East peace process, of course, is something we have to work on. But peace, prosperity, freedom, democracy around the world.

MR. RAVIV: Well, let's talk about Iraq because the U.S. did fight a war there last year and, well, touted it up already as a victory. Saddam Hussein is a prisoner. And, in fact, there was a decision by the Defense Department Friday he's a prisoner of war and accorded certain rights.

Is there going to be a high-profile trial of Saddam Hussein this year in Baghdad?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it's up to the Iraqi people. The Iraqi Governing Council is putting together judicial proceedings and bringing in experts who will help them develop charges against Saddam Hussein, and he will be put on trial with international observers participating.

I don't know that he has been formally declared a prisoner of war. I'll yield to the Pentagon on that. But we are certainly treating everybody in our custody in accordance with basic rights and expectations of international agreements that we have.

MR. RAVIV: To a degree, it is going to be a U.S. decision when to hand him over to Iraqi authorities. Should that happen, oh, maybe shortly after the 1st of July, when Iraq may have sovereignty?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I think that's something we will have to decide. Remember, the very first night he was in captivity after we pulled him out of the spider hole, we allowed members of the Iraqi Governing Council to go see and interview him and talk to him. We want the Iraqis to be full partners in this, and we believe the credibility of the new Iraqi government will be measured by how they handle this horrible dictator.

MR. WOLFSON: Is he talking to interrogators?

SECRETARY POWELL: He is talking. I can't go into any detail as to what he is saying or what he isn't saying, but we are communicating with him.

MR. WOLFSON: Mr. Secretary, why has the Administration found it so difficult to convince the Iraqi people, and to some extent the Afghan people, that what the Bush Administration did by going in and getting rid of tyrannical regimes was in their interests, as the Bush Administration says? Why has it been so hard to convince them of that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm not sure that we haven't convinced them of that. If you look at Afghanistan, the Afghan people have seen the United States come in and help them with reconstructing their country. Two million refugees have returned to Afghanistan and the promise of a democratic system. We have assisted the Afghan people in putting together a new constitution that they approved recently, and they're on their way to new elections.

There will always be those who say, "We don't want any Americans around, leave as quickly as you can." But what most people in Afghanistan say is, "Stay with us, see us through this difficult period."

Same thing in Iraq. Yes, we're being attacked by these terrorists and rogue elements that are still out there. But most of the Iraqi people recognize that the American Congress put forward $18 billion to help reconstruct their country. We have over 100,000 of our proud young men and women on the line and giving their lives to give the Iraqi people a better future. I think most Iraqis appreciate that and look forward to working with us to put in place a democratic system of government.

MR. RAVIV: And do you think most Americans get it? It's an election issue, but putting aside the election issue --

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, you can look at the polls as readily as I can. I think Americans do get it. The President enjoys high popularity overall ratings, but he also enjoys the support of the American people with respect to Iraq. The American people see that a dictator that the whole world worried about for 12 years is gone, and it was under the leadership of President Bush that a coalition was pulled together to get rid of this regime and to put Iraq into an entirely different place.

And it's already affecting other countries in the region. Iran has made some changes in its approach recently that should be encouraging to us. Libya, the same thing. And I think we can build on our success in Iraq and make the whole region a lot better. But it's going to take time. It doesn't happen overnight.

MR. RAVIV: This is an exclusive radio interview with Secretary of State Colin Powell from CBS News.

Secretary Powell, you are sometimes described as a "softliner" in a hardline administration. So, as a former Army General, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, is it hard to be soft?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I'm -- you know, I don't know that I accept that description. I am soft when it's necessary to be soft, and I'm hard when it's necessary to be soft*. I don't need any lectures from anyone about my --


SECRETARY POWELL: I don't need any advice or lectures from anyone about the use of force in war. I spent a good part of my life in the military. I've been in war for my nation. I have watched young people die. And any time we can use diplomatic efforts and political efforts to avoid a war and achieve our objectives, then we should.

You can characterize this any way you want, but I'm a soldier and I'm the chief diplomat of the United States of America. And the President wants us to use all of the tools available to us: our military, our diplomatic presence around the world through our great ambassadors, our economic potential, but most of all the power of our example of a diverse nation living in peace and freedom, where we have allowed diversity to become our strength and become the most powerful nation on the face of the Earth. And we want to share that example with other nations around the world.

MR. WOLFSON: Mr. Secretary, let me pick up on the mixture of diplomatic and military use of force. In Afghanistan and on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, you've got a good friend in President Musharraf. What's preventing U.S. forces from being able to go across the Afghan border to pursue Usama bin Laden, back and forth?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, it is an international border and there are certain sensitivities with it. It is also a very wild area, a very rugged terrain, and it's not the easiest thing in the world to send Americans across into tribal areas where everybody has known everybody in the area for the last thousand years.

So what we are doing is cooperating with the Pakistanis, making it clear to the Pakistanis that we want them to do everything they can to bring that area under control.

I am pleased that President Musharraf has responded to our overtures and is conducting new military operations in that region this week. And he understands that this kind of rogue presence is not in his interest and is dangerous to Pakistan, just as it's dangerous to Afghanistan. I am confident that the Afghans and the United States and other coalition partners, working with the Pakistani leadership, will be able to deal with this threat.

MR. RAVIV: Here at the State Department, Secretary of State Colin Powell. I was joined in the questioning by CBS News reporter Charlie Wolfson. Thank you very much.

And to Secretary Powell, continued good health and success this year. Thanks so much.

SECRETARY POWELL: Thank you very much.

(end transcript)

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