Transcript: Colin Powell, U.S. Secretary of State

Following is a transcribed excerpt from Fox News Sunday, Oct. 20, 2002.

TONY SNOW, FOX NEWS: A number of hot spots dominated world news this week. North Korea has admitted to having a secret nuclear weapons development program. The CIA director, George Tenet, said Al Qaeda is as much a threat today as it was in the summer before September 11, 2001, while terrorists with links to Al Qaeda carried out devastating attacks in Manila and elsewhere, and the United Nations Security Council moved closer to an agreement on an Iraq resolution.

Here with us to discuss these issues is Secretary of State Colin Powell. Also here, Brit Hume, Washington managing editor of Fox News.

First question, based on local developments here in Washington — there have been a series of sniper shootings — is it conceivable that Al Qaeda can be involved in this?

COLIN POWELL, U.S. SECRETARY OF STATE: Obviously, it's conceivable, but I have seen no evidence to tie this terrible series of attacks in the Washington area to Al Qaeda. I think we're looking for every possible connection, but so far I've not seen anything that does tie it to Al Qaeda.

SNOW: Another big development this week, it was reported in the American press, and you've known this for some time, North Korea is developing a nuclear weapons program.

First, do we think they now have nuclear weapons?

POWELL: It has been our best estimate that they may have one or two nuclear weapons based on earlier developments. And that's been the considered view of the intelligence community for some time.

But what's happened now is we have discovered that they have started to move in another direction to enrich uranium, a program that they've been working on for the last four or five years, back to the previous administration. We only were able to discover this in recent months.

And we put the question to them, we put the charge before them, when Assistant Secretary Kelly went to Pyongyang a few weeks ago. And lo and behold, after first denying it, they admitted it the next day and said that this nullifies the agreed framework that they had entered into with us in 1994.

SNOW: They said it nullified the agreement?


SNOW: So we're now...

POWELL: Yes, and their basis for saying that, they are blaming us for what they are doing. And then they said, "Well it was the Bush administration that put us on the axis of evil." But Assistant Secretary Kelly pointed out to them, "You had begun this enrichment uranium program in the Clinton administration, not the Bush administration."

POWELL: And that kind of blew the argument away. But they said it nullified the agreement, so an agreement between two parties, one of whom says it's nullified, makes it sort of a nullified agreement.

Now, what we do in response remains to be seen, because it just doesn't affect North Korea and the United States. It affects Japan, South Korea, China and Russia. So we're working with all of our friends and allies to see how to go forward.

SNOW: Will we suspend oil shipments?

POWELL: Well, we're looking at all of the things that come out of the agreed framework — oil shipments, light-water reactors, the Korean Energy Development Organization. All of these things are now going to be looked at, but we're going to do it in a deliberate, sensible way working with our friends and allies in a — how shall I put this — multilateral way.

SNOW: So, having done that, at this point we're going to suspend all those things as we think about it?

POWELL: No, we're going to look at all of them and see what makes sense to suspend and what makes sense to just keep considering a while.

We really want to do it in concert with our friends and allies and not start taking immediate, precipitous steps, because there are some very sensitive issues here. For example, we are monitoring their plutonium stockpiles, and we want to keep monitoring those stockpiles, and we want the International Atomic Energy Administration to keep doing it as well.

So we're going to move deliberately. We're going to move carefully and examine all of our options and do it in concert with our friends and allies.

SNOW: Some members of Congress have been complaining that they were not consulted on this. Were members of Congress briefed on the progress of the development program in North Korea prior to this?

POWELL: Yes. We saw the intelligence in early July. We looked at the intelligence in the course of July through August. I started to have some preliminary conversations with some of my overseas colleagues, the Russians and the Chinese, to warn them that there was something coming.

And then beginning in early September, about the 10th of September, we began congressional consultations, both sides of the aisle, and made sure that members of Congress were aware that we had information that the Koreans were now enriching uranium again, or getting the technology to enrich uranium.

After Assistant Secretary Kelly went to Pyongyang, came back with this blockbuster news that they admitted it, we began another series of consultations, and those consultations were just starting when the whole story broke open.

CIA has also been up on the Hill briefing members of Congress about these developments.

BRIT HUME, FOX NEWS: Mr. Secretary, the accusation has been made that what you now call the blockbuster news of their acknowledgement of this was withheld so that it would not come until after the vote on an Iraq war resolution. Is that true?

POWELL: No, not at all. I mean, why would we have withheld it because of that? I mean, I think, if anything, it reinforces our need to respond to these kinds of challenges. And so I think it is not an accurate charge.

HUME: Well, did we know it before the Iraq vote and not tell them?

POWELL: It doesn't make any difference whether we knew it or not. We did not use this knowledge in any way to either assist us with an Iraq vote or not assist us with an Iraq vote. We had no conversation at all during that roughly 10-day period where we said, "How will this affect the vote in the Congress?" It's just — it was a separate issue of enormous importance and gravity, and no politics were being played with it.

HUME: We appear to be near at the U.N. an agreement on passage of a resolution on Iraq. But the confident signals that have been coming from Washington and some of diplomats to the U.N. seem, at least on the surface, to be contradicted by comments from other diplomats, France and others. What is going on here?

POWELL: Well, it's the U.N. at work, 15 sovereign nations in the Security Council who are trying to move forward on a particular issue.

We have had very productive conversations over the last several days with some of our Security Council colleagues. And early this week we will be presenting a resolution that contains all the elements we believe should be in such a resolution. And as a result of discussions with the French and the British and the Russians and the Chinese and others, I think it's a resolution that will draw good support from the Security Council.

But there's still a ways to go. Once you put a resolution down, then everybody gets to comment on it. And there'll be some tough debates ahead, but it will be a resolution, I believe, that will clearly lay out the violations of Saddam Hussein, the fact that we need a very new and tough inspection regime, and the fact that there'll have to be consequences that flow from any continued violation on the part of Saddam Hussein of the inspection regime.

HUME: Do you have the agreement already that you need from the permanent five members of the U.N. Security Council on those provisions you just spoke of?

POWELL: They haven't all seen every element of it. And that's what we'll do early this week. And then the discussion will begin.

HUME: Well, let's talk about, just for a moment, the issue of inspection seems to be basically non-controversial in terms of everybody wants that.

POWELL: Everybody wants that, yes.

HUME: What about the issue of consequences?

POWELL: The issue of consequences, there are different points of view. The point of view we hold is that there have to be consequences. And we believe that the president of the United States has all the authority he needs now, and this new resolution will in no way diminish his authority if he feels he has to act with like-minded nations to deal with continued Iraqi violations.

HUME: What about the issue of one resolution versus two?

POWELL: Initially, there'll be one resolution, that is what we are supporting. And we believe that that one resolution will give the president what he needs and in no way diminish his authority.

Now, will that one resolution be sufficient to get all other members to join in an effort, if an effort is needed at this time? That remains to be seen. There is no way to keep other members of the Security Council from going before the Council and asking for a discussion, asking for a debate and asking for other resolutions. But right now we are focusing on this one resolution.


HUME: I'm sorry, just one — so it comes down to this: We believe that the one resolution you now feel confident you will get, specifying inspections and consequences, would be sufficient for the president to act, and you have no objection if there are further resolutions?

POWELL: I can't object, because I don't know what further resolutions might be. But the resolution I hope will come out of the Security Council will lay out the indictment, will put in place a new, tough, take-it-or-leave-it inspection regime for Saddam Hussein, and will make it clear that consequences will flow from continued violation.

How those consequences will flow remains to be seen, with respect to the United States and other like-minded nations, who, in the presence of continued violations on the part of the Iraqis, believe they will have all the authority necessary if they decide to act. Whether other members of the body choose to act with us at that time remains to be seen.

SNOW: All right, let's run through this quickly then. Completely open inspections, no conditions.

POWELL: Right.

SNOW: That's an absolute must.


SNOW: Secondly, there are going to be timetables.


SNOW: And how soon must Iraq, A, provide a full accounting of what it has and, B, permit unconditional searches?

POWELL: Tony, I would rather that come out of the negotiation process with the Security Council members this week rather than me to prejudge what they might decide.

SNOW: Also, is it your view that the U.N. Charter, if Iraq is found in, quote, "material breach of previous resolutions," already grants you the authority to use force, and that is the reason why you don't need a second resolution?

POWELL: I think that argument can be made, and we'll be making that argument with our friends. In fact, Iraq has been in violation of these many resolutions for a period of 11 years.

And the president, acting in his authority as commander in chief, and consistent with the United Nations Charter, and especially empowered by the congressional resolution last week that says, work with the United Nations, try to get a tough resolution, and you can operate within the United Nations framework, if military action is required and it is approved by the United Nations. But if the United Nations, the Security Council in the presence of violations is not willing to then authorize military force, you, Mr. President, have the authority you need under our Constitution and in accordance with our laws and under self-defense aspects of the U.N. Charter, to take military action with like-minded nations.

So, if it comes to military action, it can be done one of two ways: the United States with like-minded nations taking it — and we believe all the authority is necessary for us to do so — or with all other nations as part of a U.N. resolution.

SNOW: On that theme, let me double back quickly to North Korea. Why is Kim Jung Il less of a threat than Saddam Hussein?

POWELL: Kim Jung Il is a threat in his own right. And I don't think we have to compare him to Saddam Hussein, and it's not a good comparison anyway.

Saddam Hussein in recent years has invaded two of his neighbors. He has used these kinds of weapons of mass destruction against his own people, as well as his neighbors. He has resources available to him. It's a very wealthy little country. They've misspent their wealth, but it is a very wealthy little country. And Korea is an isolated country with no wealth, with a broken economy, a broken society, desperately in need, and with neighbors who are not going to be happy with this new development.

SNOW: So...

POWELL: And so there are different ways to approach North Korea.

But it is dangerous, and Iraq is dangerous.

SNOW: Bill Clinton contemplated using force against North Korea; did not. Is that still an option?

POWELL: It is always an option, but at the moment, we don't see that that is something that is really a real and present problem for us.

HUME: In this meeting with Assistant Secretary Kelly, the North Korean authorities were described as having been almost belligerent in their acknowledgement...


HUME: ... and added to the acknowledgement about the weapons program the statement that they had other serious weapons.

What do we believe those other weapons to be?

POWELL: We don't know what they were talking about.

HUME: What do you think?

POWELL: It might — well, I don't want to speculate, because that's all it would be, is pure speculation. They have not repeated that statement in any other statements that they have made since then. So, whether they were talking about some of their missile programs, or whether they were talking about other weapons of mass destruction, or whether they were just making bold statements remains to be seen.

But we take them seriously, and we will watch carefully, watch their actions. And what's interesting in this instance is that immediately the Japanese, the South Koreans, the Russians and the Chinese are communicating to North Korea about the seriousness of this matter.

POWELL: There's a South Korean delegation in Pyongyang now. There will be meetings between the Japanese and the North Koreans and Kuala Lumpur at the end of next week.

And the Japanese have said, you know, this matter has to be resolved. We cannot go forward with the kind of normalization talks we were thinking of in the presence of this kind of situation. And the idea that there are pots of money waiting for you to improve your economy, or help you rescue this dying society in the presence of this kind of situation or this kind of weapon technology, is out of the question.

SNOW: Sir, very quickly, I'd like to get your reaction to two quotes. One is from our next guest, Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle. He is talking about the Bush administration foreign policy. He says, "I don't know if we've ever seen a more precipitous drop in international stature and public opinion with regard to this country as we have in the last two years."

Your reaction?

POWELL: Well, I would disagree with Senator Daschle. I think the United States is seen as a nation that believes in principles, that we will act on our principles. We will work in concert with our friends and allies around the world. And where there is a particular issue where we can't get consensus but it is in our interest to act, we will act.

And I think that we are showing leadership in this world. We are showing the principled use of our economic strength, our moral strength, as well as our military strength.

SNOW: Secondly, a man you have described as your friend, Harry Belafonte, has said a series of things about you. I'm not going to put up all the quotes, but at one point he compared you to a house slave, and then he said he didn't really mean that, merely that you were serving the master.

And then later on — here's the — "There's an old saying in the days of slavery. There are those slaves who lived on the plantation and there were those slaves who lived in the house. You got the privilege of living in the house if you served the master. Colin Powell was permitted to come into the house of the master." He later has said that he doesn't think you've comported yourself properly.

You say he's a friend, but isn't he acting a bit like an idiot?

POWELL: I think it's unfortunate that Harry found it necessary to use that kind of a reference. I don't know what reference he would use to white Cabinet officers who were in the house of the master.

I'm serving my nation. I'm serving this president, my president, our president. I'm very happy to do so.

Harry has every right to attack my politics, attack my policies. He can attack the administration's policies. But we have advanced in this nation where you shouldn't have to rest it on this kind of, this kind of reference that should have been left in the past. It isn't appropriate, and it's an unfortunate situation that Harry chose to use as kind of characterization.

SNOW: Secretary of State Colin Powell, thanks for joining us.

POWELL: Thank you.