This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," Sept. 17, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.
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SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Kofi Annan has spoken out again, said the war in Iraq was illegal and violated the U.N. charter. Your reaction.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: My reaction is that the secretary-general is incorrect. We believe that the war was necessary and it rested on sound principles of international law.
We have made our case and we have had our lawyers put forth a rather spirited defense of our position. And, of course, it's a position held by Australia and the United Kingdom and all the other members of the coalition.
I spoke with the secretary-general, and we know that there are different views on this. But our view is clear, and our view is based on international law.
HANNITY: Have you spoken to him since he made his remarks?
POWELL: Yes. Yes.
HANNITY: Can you give us insight?
POWELL: I speak to the secretary-general, I would say, oh, four or five times a week, and we had a good conversation this morning.
HANNITY: Was it as strongly worded conversation?
POWELL: We had a good -- good, diplomatic conversation.
HANNITY: That is a good, diplomatic answer.
POWELL: Well, frankly, we've got the U.N. general assembly coming up next week, and it's an important meeting. The president will make an important speech next Tuesday, and we didn't want any distractions so we want to move on.
HANNITY: Don Rumsfeld actually went on record and said 48 days before an election, this reeks of political interference. Do you agree with that?
POWELL: Not really. I read the transcript very, very carefully. And the secretary-general was in an interview situation, and he was not trying to, I think, get into our politics or, frankly, to make news. It just -- he got into this interview situation and said what he said, and he had I had a good conversation this morning.
HANNITY: The prime minister of Australia used the word "paralyzed" to describe the United Nations.
You have 17 resolutions, 12 years, you have 1441. Most of these resolutions talk about serious consequences. But yet they were unwilling to follow through on those consequences.
Is -- is -- can people be intellectually honest and use the word "paralyze," that the U.N. has lost its effectiveness, that it's been rendered impotent, political perhaps?
POWELL: I don't think I would say it's impotent. I mean, the U.N. does a lot of good things. But dealing with a crisis like this, it tends not to do it that well, because it's hard to get everybody on the same sheet of music.
In this case, however, and to show you how it is grounded in international law, we went to the United Nations and got the unanimous resolution, 1441. And that resolution said that Iraq was in material breach, remained in material breach, has not gotten out of material breach and any further acts that constituted material breach should lead to serious consequences.
Well, there were further acts: a false declaration, not cooperating in the way that they should and that believes -- led us to believe it's time to impose serious consequences.
And when the Security Council was not prepared to make such a judgment based on the original resolution, 1441, and all those years of resolutions as you've pointed out, Sean, the president boldly stepped forward. And with a like-mined coalition, Australia, the United Kingdom, and many other nations, he took action.
And we are with one less dictator in the world and a regime that filled mass graves, that used weapons of mass destruction against its own people and against its own neighbors, that violated human rights, that did all of those terrible things, that regime is gone.
The remnants of that regime are trying to see if they can, recreate it and they won't be able to. We'll defeat the insurgency.
HANNITY: Jacques Chirac, their spokesman, he even weighed in on this and said, "We consider it illegitimate."
How does that impact your job and the relationship that the United States has with its so-called ally, France?
POWELL: There are always these kinds of disagreements. We understand that the French characterize it as illegitimate, but the French are wrong, too.
And what you have to do is find areas where there are agreement and build on those, and where there are areas of disagreement, see if you can work your way through.
But there always will be points at which you can't get agreement with another party, and then you have to do what you think is right and what's in the best interest of the American people and our security and the security of the international order. And that's exactly what President Bush did last year.
HANNITY: Bill Gertz has just come out with a new book, "Treachery: How America's Friends and Foes are Secretly Arming Our Enemies."
In the book, he chronicles how, even after the war began, allies like France were dealing arms and the like with Iraq, serious allegations that China, Iraq's top military officer provided Baghdad with technical assistance and other assistance.
Are you aware of -- is that -- have you been following this?
POWELL: There are many reports, but I can't comment on -- I haven't read Bill's book so I can't comment on any of the specifics within the book.
HANNITY: Do you have any knowledge that any of our allies were involved in -- in any effort to help Iraq at a time when we were in this conflict with them?
POWELL: I can't talk about it because I'm not familiar with anything that happened after the war began.
But of course, before the war began, there was a lot of contact with Iraq and the nations that were friends and allies of ours. Both within the context of the oil-for-food program, perhaps out of the context of the oil- for-food program. And that's what people have to look at now and why we're taking a look, very intense look, at how the oil-for-food program was used. And we know that there was corruption in that program. We know that that there was some -- there was some terrible things that happened under the umbrella of that program.
That's what we have to look at and let that take us wherever it does. And if it turns out that some of our allies were behaving in a way that was improper, we have to see that; we have to know that.
HANNITY: I guess the one remaining question: you had expressed doubts recently about whether or not weapons of mass destruction would ever be found. And I think you're probably right, based on where we are at this particular point in time.
Is it -- is it more likely that our intelligence was wrong, that they didn't exist? Is it more likely that perhaps they were hidden and are still hidden? Or is it even more likely that perhaps they were moved to a country like Syria?
POWELL: I can't excludes any of those possibilities. But if I had to put my money on something, I would say that Saddam Hussein clearly had the intention of having such weapons. He had the capability of having such weapons. And if he'd ever broken free of U.N. sanctions or international oversight, he would have built up his stockpiles.
The weakness in the case that we presented, we haven't found the stockpiles we thought existed. Now we'll just have to wait to see what Mr. Duelfer, who's running the effort to get to the truth of all this, says.
POWELL: My instinct right now says that the sources that we had were mistaken, with respect to the existence of any significant stockpiles. We haven't found any, and I haven't seen a persuasive cases that says they've all been buried or went to another country.
But that's what we've got several hundred people examining, under the leadership of Charlie Duelfer.
HANNITY: Let's talk about Mr. Duelfer. "The New York Times" reports today that the Iraqi Survey Group, that Saddam had a clear intent, they reported, to, in fact, produce biological, chemical and nuclear weapons if the U.N. sanctions were lifted.
There's no evidence they had a large-scale program to -- that it was going on at the time of invasion, but they definitely had the plan.
Is there some validation there?
POWELL: There is no question about this. And I haven't seen the Duelfer report yet.
But even without that report, I have always known -- and there's no debate within the intelligence community that he had the intention. He was keeping in place the dual-use capabilities that would give him a breakout possibility with biological and chemical weapons.
And that he kept in tact the intellectual wherewithal to go back to nuclear weapons if he was ever free of all that.
Why would anybody assume that Saddam Hussein, with his history, his track record, his money and his capability, once relieved of the pressure of international sanctions, would not go back to this behavior?
The behavior would have been rewarded by the international community. All those years of resolutions and suddenly the international community says, well, never mind.
HANNITY: The report, according to, again, the "Times," today's edition, specifically discussed these clandestine labs that were operated by the Iraqi intelligence services and which could have produced these lethal weapons.
Have the American people heard too little about them? Because they were discovered. This is what...
POWELL: They have not gotten that much attention, and I think that if the "New York Times" report is accurate and Charlie lays out all this information in his report, the world will see the truth.
And the truth of the matter is that Saddam Hussein never changed his spots. The man who gassed 5,000 people one Friday morning in 1988 is the same man we took out of power last year. Never changed his spots.
He had the intention. He had these mini laboratories that were humming away. He was keeping in tact the infrastructure. Why? To make pesticides later or to make chemical weapons and biological weapons later? What would you put your money on?
The president refused to put his money on the benign characterization of these activities. He refused to answer some of the basic questions put to him by the inspectors and by the U.N.
"What happened to the material we know you had years ago? What happened to the gaps in information that the U.N. inspectors came upon years ago?" He refused to answer.
So, what should the international community do? Say well, let's just forget about it, he doesn't want to answer the test? No the president refused to put the American people at that risk, the region at that risk and the world at that risk.
HANNITY: Do you think Iraqi insurgents would try -- we keep hearing that we're in an election cycle. We keep hearing -- we saw what happened in Spain when terrorists tried to impact an election, and many would argue they did.
Would Iraqi insurgents on their end try and create maximum amount of chaos to perhaps and potentially impact the election?
POWELL: We have always assumed that once the transfer of authority took place, then the Iraqi interim government was solvent again. And they were working toward an election at the end of the year, with our election coming along that time line, in early November, of course.
That they would do every thing they could to demonstrate that we weren't capable of securing the country and the new government was not capable. And that's what they're doing now. That's why the violence has gone up.
And what you are seeing in response are Iraqi leaders who are courageous, who are stepping forward, putting themselves at risk. Young men who are stepping forward to be police officers, to be members of the army, and you're seeing coalition troops now starting to respond much more aggressively than they might have in recent weeks.
HANNITY: National intelligence estimates over the summer that our government, more senior analysts examining things here, that this was tending and trending towards a civil war. They described it in pessimistic terms. You've read this report. You disagree with that.
POWELL: I've read this report, and I wouldn't characterize it quite that way. And I don't remember any reference to civil war.
What it was was a very sober assessment of the challenges that lay ahead. That's what -- that's what intelligence estimates are supposed to do. They're not supposed to tell you about all the great things that have happened and you don't have to worry about anymore.
What you want the intelligence community to do is point out the challenges and problems you're facing, the things you better be worrying about. This is what this did t. It was a very sober appraisal of the situation.
HANNITY: The U.S. State Department for the first time labeled Saudi Arabia one of the world's worst violators of religious freedom. Quote, the report says freedom of religion does not exist in Saudi Arabia. And they're a close ally.
POWELL: It does not and they are a close ally and they have been a friend of the United States for many years. And we have cooperated with them in so many ways over the years, and they have supported us in so many ways.
But the reality is that there is not freedom of religion in Saudi Arabia, and they would not say to you that there is. It is an Islam country, Islamic country that does not tolerate other expressions of religious freedom.
And for the first time we had conversations with the Saudis that we have to designate you in the category that we have in the law, a country of particular concern. And I had long talks with my Saudi friends before I designated it.
HANNITY: And their reaction?
POWELL: Well, they're not happy being designated, but they recognize the reality of the situation. And hopefully with this sort of spotlight, this sort of pressure, they will keep moving down this rather modest path of reform that they're on.
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