Published January 13, 2015
Members of the Bush administration differ about what action to take against Iraq's Saddam Hussein, and no decision has been made on a military strike, Secretary of State Colin Powell said in an interview to be broadcast Sunday.
"The president has not decided to undertake military action," Powell said, according to a transcript of the interview for the British Broadcasting Corp.'s "Breakfast with Frost" program. President Bush, he said, "is examining all our options -- political, diplomatic, military."
In the transcript, released by the BBC ahead of Sunday's broadcast, Powell said the president's advisers "all have lots of views and we all communicate in different ways." He said members of the administration "have full, open debate without pulling our punches."
Another exchange between David Frost and Powell, shown by the BBC last week, appeared to highlight sharp differences within the Bush administration over how to deal with the Iraq crisis.
In it Powell said the United States should seek a return of U.N. weapons inspectors to Iraq before taking any further steps -- days after Vice President Dick Cheney had said resuming inspections could be counterproductive.
"The president has been clear that he believes weapons inspectors should return," Powell told the BBC.
"Iraq has been in violation of these many U.N. resolutions for most of the last 11 or so years. So as a first step, let's see what the inspectors find, send them back in, why are they being kept out."
The excerpt was played last week to promote Sunday's interview, but the comments do not appear in the transcript released by the BBC.
In the transcript, Powell said Saddam was determined to acquire nuclear weapons but that the United States did not know how close he was to his goal.
Powell said, "you can debate whether it is one year, five years, six years or nine years; the important point is that they are still committed to pursuing that technology."
However, he said, Saddam was militarily much weaker than before the Gulf War in 1991. Powell estimated that "the Iraqi army is perhaps at one-third or a little better than one-third of its capability of 12 years ago. It is not the same force."
In a separate interview published Saturday in the French daily Le Monde, Powell said the world community should be "outraged" by Saddam's violations of U.N. resolutions.
"The United Nations, the international community, every European nation should be outraged," he said, according to a French translation of his remarks.
Addressing opposition from U.S. allies -- especially France, Germany and Russia -- to a strike against Iraq without U.N. backing, Powell said: "That we disagree is not a disaster."
"We should never lose sight of the fact that even in disagreement, we speak, we exchange points of view," he added.
In an interview published Sunday, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice warned that a failure to deal with Iraq would have serious consequences for countries other than America.
"We now know what happens when evil people have the means to attack you and are determined to do it," she was quoted as saying in Britain's Sunday Times. "(The next target) wouldn't have to be New York or Washington. It could indeed be London or Berlin."
The BBC interview with Powell also touched on the crisis in the Middle East. Powell said the United States regarded Yasser Arafat as the legitimate leader of the Palestinian people -- but wished the Palestinians would find a new one.
Bush has called for Arafat to be replaced and has accused the Palestinian Authority of being enmeshed in terror against Israel.
Powell said Arafat was a failed leader who had not brought peace or stability to his people.
"And we have not suggested to the Palestinian people that they overthrow him or to the Israelis that they send him into exile," Powell said. "We just believe that the situation would be improved and the plight of the Palestinian people would be dealt with in a more effective way with the emergence of new leaders."
Powell said Israel should stop building settlements in the Palestinian territories, pull out of the West Bank "and ultimately end the occupation" as part of a comprehensive solution to the crisis.
Powell said vague intelligence meant U.S. authorities had been unable to stop the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington, even though they feared a terrorist atrocity was imminent.
"We knew that something was going on," Powell said. "Our Director of Central Intelligence, George Tenet, throughout the summer was giving us warnings: There's something going on, something's happening, something's going to happen; we're not sure what it is.
"But we've never had enough insight or fidelity into reports we were getting to have predicted something of this magnitude or this nature. It was something we had never seen before. I mean, we look for bombs, we look for terrorists, but we never thought one of our airplanes would be the bomb."