Transcript: Powell Discusses Mideast on Fox News Sunday

Published June 08, 2003

| FoxNews.com

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday on June 8, 2003.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS:  President Bush hurled himself into the Middle East peace process this week with a couple of summit meetings. The highlight, a confab with the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

For more, we turn, in an exclusive live interview, to Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Secretary Powell, let's begin with developments today in the Middle East. Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Hamas, and the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are assuming responsibility for shooting four Israeli soldiers today.

Do you expect the Palestinian Authority to go ahead and arrest those responsible?

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: If they can find them, I'm sure they would arrest them. What we have to do now is to make sure we don't allow this tragic, terrible incident to derail the momentum of the road map that got started at the Sharm el-Sheikh and Aqaba summits last week.

This is the time when both leaders have to do everything they can, Prime Minister Sharon and Prime Minister Abbas, everything they can to move forward.

Prime Minister Abbas has condemned the armed intifada, says it has to come to an end. He's condemned this kind of activity. Now we have to give him the capacity and the capability to deal with Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the al-Aqsa Brigades. And I'm persuaded that he is committed to doing that.

SNOW: You say we've got to give him the means...

POWELL: He needs to have his police forces rebuilt. He needs communications. He needs vehicles. He needs a lot.

SNOW: And we will help him do that?

POWELL: We will be helping him, and other nations will be helping him.

SNOW: Is it true that we have been providing some money to buy back weapons of terrorist groups within the West Bank and Gaza?

POWELL: I can't answer that, Tony. I'd have to leave that to other agencies of government who handle such matters.

SNOW: All right. Do you not see the fine hand of Yasser Arafat behind what happened today?

POWELL: I can't say that, but I can say that Yasser Arafat has to play a more positive role than he's been playing in recent days or over the last couple years. He is still the president of the Palestinian Authority, I recognize that, and he has a place within the minds and hearts of the Palestinian people.

He now has to start speaking out for peace as well. We do not find him a useful interlocutor. That's why we haven't dealt with him over the past year or so.

And I hope that more nations around the world will bring pressure to bear on Yasser Arafat so that he helps Prime Minister Abbas develop the capability to deal with terrorism and doesn't just sit on the sidelines, hoping that Abbas fails.

SNOW: On the other hand, you have specifically requested that our European allies not talk to him. A couple of weeks ago, you were sitting side by side with Dominique de Villepin, the French foreign minister, who immediately after you said that, said, "Well, I'm going, and I'm going to talk to Yasser Arafat." What was your reaction?

POWELL: The European nations have a different view of this. They believe that they have a need to speak to Mr. Arafat. The one thing I know is that they're all delivering a tough message to Arafat, that he has to support Prime Minister Abbas and to not be a spoiler. But at the same time, every time they go there, Arafat appears on television all over the world, and it seems to me that is not consistent with our efforts to build up Prime Minister Abbas.

SNOW: Isn't it really the case that we've got a power struggle now between Mahmoud Abbas and Yasser Arafat? They may be part of the same government, but we are in a period of transition right now, and Yasser Arafat is pitted against his former deputy.

POWELL: Well, we've made our choice. We are going to be supporting Prime Minister Abbas. We're going to do everything we can to help him and his cabinet develop the capability to deal with terrorism in the Gaza and in the West Bank. And we have to move in this direction.

And we are hoping that Israel will also do everything they can to help Prime Minister Abbas, by taking some of the steps that Prime Minister Sharon announced the other day in order to make it easier for Prime Minister Abbas to take the difficult steps he has to take.

Both sides have obligations, and both sides have to take steps.

SNOW: In other words, the Israelis have to help Mahmoud Abbas make the argument that he can deliver in ways that Yasser Arafat could not, including shutting down settlements that have been built since Ariel Sharon took office in March of 2001.

POWELL: Well, yes, you've heard Prime Minister Sharon say that he would go after the illegal outpost. Other settlements will be part of the road-map process as we go forward.

The whole settlement issue is going to be a very, very difficult one, and both sides will have to negotiate how that comes about. The United States is going to play an important role in that.

SNOW: You've talking about other nations playing a constructive role with Yasser Arafat. One would presume that would include the Arab neighbors.

POWELL: Especially the Arab neighbors. What we have said to them is that they have to make sure that all of their actions support Prime Minister Abbas. They have to make sure -- and they said this in the statement that they released -- that they would no longer be providing any support to terrorist organizations or any organizations that do not support the peace process.

SNOW: But do they recognize that Hamas is a terrorist group, that Hezbollah is a terrorist group, the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades are terrorist groups? Because in the past, they have not.

POWELL: They do understand that these organizations have terrorist elements to them. Now, this is their characterization, not mine. And what they have committed to is no longer providing support to any organization that supports terrorist activities.

So we will watch their activities in the future and see what actions they take to put the truth to their statement.

SNOW: The president wants there to be an agreement by the year 2005. That's going to require his staying involved, is it not?

POWELL: The president knows that, the president intends to stay involved. And he has charged Dr. Rice and I to give this our highest priority.

SNOW: Do you expect to have another meeting in which the president will be joined again by the prime ministers of Israel and the Palestinian Authority any time soon?

POWELL: I wouldn't say any time soon, but surely, the president, you can expect him to have a meeting with both of the leaders individually, and I'm sure there'll be an opportunity for the three of them to meet again at some time in the future.

The president has made it clear that this is a top priority for him. And the road map is the way forward. We're putting Ambassador Wolf on the ground in the next week or so, with people to help monitor the situation between the two sides, help them begin talking to one another in a more effective way to rebuild confidence and trust between the two sides.

And the White House and the State Department and all the other departments in the administration are absolutely knitted up behind this effort.

SNOW: And you think that it's possible to have everything done by 2005?

POWELL: It's our goal, and it is possible, if we have progress on the road map. But what we have to do is stop terrorism, and Prime Minister Abbas and Prime Minister Sharon both have to have that as their uppermost and firstmost goal, to stop terrorism.

We cannot, as the president has said, put Israel's security at risk. And it is difficult for Israel to make the difficult choices that it is expected to make under the road map if it is constantly being assaulted by terrorists. Prime Minister Sharon has to protect his people. He said that in his statement.

And so we all have to work together to get this terrorism under control but, at the same time, not let terrorism stop us from moving forward. It is a difficult situation, but if it was an easy situation, it would have been solved many, many years ago.

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