This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes", March 8, 2004, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: Well, it was an important day in Iraq, where the Iraqi Governing Council finally today signed the interim constitution, which is the first step on the long and very difficult road towards self-governance.

Earlier today I had a chance to ask Secretary of State Colin Powell what this means for the future of Iraq.


HANNITY: Well, it's a big day, interim Iraqi constitution. How important is that?

COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: Very important. I mean, just imagine the impact that this document is going to have, not only in Iraq but in that part of the world.

The rights of all citizens to include women, committing this Arab nation to democracy, a free and independent judiciary, the military firmly under civilian control. Does all of this kind of sound familiar to you, Sean? It's democracy in action.

And look at the way they arrived at it. By fighting, by debating, by disagreeing, by having to stop the signing ceremony on Friday in order to consult.

And they come back and here it is on a wonderful Monday morning, they sign this document which is revolutionary, putting into place a constitutional Democratic process.

HANNITY: A little like our constitutional convention in terms of the acrimony and disagreements?

POWELL: Exactly. You can go to a congressional hearing any day of the week here, and you'll see that kind of democracy in action. Democracy is a noisy system.

HANNITY: With all we now know, because the debate over Iraq still continues to this day, with all we know about the death toll, about not finding all the weapons of mass destruction we wanted, did we do the right thing? Would you advocate we do it all over again?

POWELL: We did the right thing. I'd advocate, and I think all of the president's advisers would advocate we do the right thing.

If there was any doubt in our minds, that doubt was removed today, when you saw those 25 individuals sign that historic document, and now they're moving on to form the interim government that will come into being on the first of July.

And we can discuss and debate, and we should discuss and debate the intelligence and what we knew and when we knew it, but I can tell you that last year we put forward the best intelligence case we had. I put it forward at the United Nations. And February last year the president used that intelligence.

Director Tenet is now discussing what he concluded at the time of the decisions that were made to go to war. And I think we based everything we did on sound intelligence.

And that intelligence said you have a regime that has the intent, you have a regime with the capability, we believe they had stocks on hand. Everything has been proven except we don't see the stocks on hand. We don't know how that was missed. And if it was missed, we're still looking, but the intent and the capability, no doubt.

HANNITY: Let me ask, along those lines, prior to this war, if you go back, the United Nations said he had weapons of mass destruction. France said it. Germany said it, all of our allies. The United Nations at length chronicled what he had or what they believed they had.

Isn't it a more likely scenario that either they are still hidden or that they have been moved? Wouldn't that be a greater concern than, oh, they didn't exist? Isn't that the more -- the greater reality?

POWELL: Well, it is the greater reality. We just don't know. And we didn't know at the time we made the decision.

But the president couldn't sit and look the other way and say, "Well, because I don't know, I'm not going to act." He acted on the most solid intelligence he had.

Now we'll find out. The work continues. Did some leave the country? Is some still hidden? Was some destroyed before the war? Is it a combination of all of these things? We'll find out.

But this debate over whether there were actual stocks in hand or not, should not contaminate the correctness of the president's decision and the fact of the matter that we now have a country that is moving forward toward democracy.

And it was counter-pointed today by rockets that came into the Green Zone, our compound there, even as the signing ceremony was getting ready to take place, showing that there are still people in Iraq who don't want democracy, who don't want to see these people live in peace with openness and freedom, and living in peace with their neighbors, a country that will never again fill mass graves, a country that will never again be suspected of developing weapons of mass destruction.

And it's had an effect throughout the region. Look what happened in Libya.

HANNITY: I'd like to see anybody make the case that Iraq is not better off today or that the world is not any safer today, although some people have, which leads me to my next question.

Prominent Democratic leaders have made some very outrageous statements about the administration. Let me give you some examples.

Ted Kennedy said the president told lie after lie after lie, said that the case for going to war was a fraud, was concocted in Texas for political gain.

Former Vice President Al Gore, screaming at the top of his lungs, said that George W. Bush betrayed America; he played on our fears; he took us on an ill-advised adventure that was preordained prior to even 9/11.

And of course, Howard Dean advancing the theory that the president was warned about 9/11 ahead of time.

We're not talking about the punditry class. We're talking about the top leaders in a prominent political party. When you hear those things, what do you think?

POWELL: It's very disturbing. I mean, Vice President Gore was in an administration that believed that there were weapons of mass destruction to the extent that they bombed the facilities that they thought those weapons of mass destruction were in back in 1998.

That was President Clinton and Vice President Gore.

So he now screams that there's something wrong with the Bush administration, because we finished the job as opposed to just a four-day bombing campaigned and we've eliminated the problem forever, I think is incorrect.

The same thing with respect to the others. Senator Kennedy and the others.

Now, I think Director Tenet and his testimony last week and what he'll be doing this week, will show to the Congress that the information that Congress received was consistent with what the international intelligence community believed, is consistent with what the U.N. had said and was the same information that Congress was receiving themselves.

And they got the national intelligence estimate. They were briefed by Director Tenet, the same information I got, the same information the president got. And if they had a problem with it they should have raised it then.

And what the president said was consistent with the information he was given by the director of central intelligence.

HANNITY: Let me ask you, maybe, in this way. And I guess it's somewhat of a -- We are in a political season, as you know, and I guess that's probably where a lot of the rhetoric is coming from.

But I went back and I got some quotes, for example, from '02 and these couple in '03, that were made by Senator John Kerry.

He said, "If you don't believe Saddam is a threat with nuclear weapons you shouldn't vote for me." He said that in January of '03.

He said in March of '03, "I think Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are a threat. That's why I voted to hold him accountable and make certain we disarm him." And he said, "Those weapons pose a real and grave danger to the United States."

My question then, therefore becomes, if Senator Kerry made that case up until March of '03 and he's now as critical as anybody we've heard out there, the question becomes, are prominent Democrats, are they politicizing issues of national security for this country?

POWELL: Well, this clearly seems to me to be a politicization because in fact, Senator Kerry was arriving at those judgments using the same intelligence base, the same intelligence information that President Clinton and Vice President Gore had previously, and that President Bush was receiving from the Central Intelligence Agency.

Senator Kerry accepted it and spoke as if he believed it. And now a year later, to say the president was doing the wrong thing or he misled the nation, just is inaccurate. It isn't right.

And we shouldn't be having a political debate over issues like that. We ought to stick with what we said and not start changing our view a year later, because it's in a political interest.

HANNITY: But that word "lie" and "hype" and the constant barrage, while -- I mean, you're a former soldier. What does it mean to morale for troops when they hear these attacks against their commander?

POWELL: It doesn't help.

Troops will always serve their nation with honor, as they have in this conflict, as do others, not just troops, but our diplomats and people from all the departments of government who are in a dangerous zone in Iraq. And they want to know the American people are supporting them.

Now we should have a good fight between political candidates, but let's not misuse an issue for the purpose of political advantage in a way that will undercut the efforts of our brave young and women out there or affect their morale.

HANNITY: We'll move on to the rest of the axis of evil. The fear, I guess, obviously of nuclear proliferation, more specifically North Korea and Iran. You've been active in negotiations with both those states, as I read and understand.

Where are we? Do you feel that we're making progress?

POWELL: Well, with respect to Iran, today, in the actions of the International Atomic Energy Agency, they have taken up the subject of Iran's nuclear programs.

Iran has made some positive steps, but there's a lot more they have to do. They have signed an additional protocol to the nonproliferation treaty, and they have made some commitments to European Union foreign ministers.

But we don't think it's enough. We think this is a nation that has spent a lot of time trying to deceive the world with respect to its programs.

And we won't be satisfied until everything is known about those programs and the IAEA is satisfied and the international community is satisfied.

North Korea, a country that should have -- has no business dealing with nuclear weapons.

They're hungry. They have no electricity. Their industry isn't functioning. Their people are in desperate need. Their soldiers are getting smaller and smaller through malnutrition. They're just a desperate country.

And to be wasting not only money and treasure on these kinds of weapons, they've lost the support of the international community.

Their neighbors have joined with us in saying there must be complete and verifiable, irreversible dismantlement of your nuclear weapons.

And we had a positive outcome over the last six-party talks. We look forward now to working groups with the North Koreans to convince them as to what is meant by this kind of dismantlement. And we hope they will understand that a better international situation awaits them if they get rid of these programs.

HANNITY: Didn't we make a bad deal with them when gave them the nuclear technology? And fuel to run them, and...


HANNITY: ... didn't we encourage them to sort of...

POWELL: Everybody thought it was a good deal when the agreed framework was signed in 1994, which capped the program at Pyongyang. But it didn't remove it yet. It was going to take many years before that program was removed totally. Just sat there under international supervision.

We started to build nuclear reactors. And then we discovered a few years later that, notwithstanding this great deal, they were developing nuclear weapons in another way. They were acquiring the technology to enrich uranium.

And that's what we called them on in 2002. And they didn't like being called on it but they admitted it. Now they have said, "No we didn't admit it. We didn't do it. We don't have this kind of a program."

But they're going to have to demonstrate to the world that they're giving up all aspects of their program, like Libya is.

HANNITY: Let me ask you one question about yourself, and I'm not going to ask you if you're going to run for president. I asked you that the last time.

Have you thought about staying on for a second term? Has the president asked you?

POWELL: The president and I talk about many things all the time, but the only thing I ever say in response to that is, Sean, I serve at the pleasure of the president.

HANNITY: OK. We'll continue.

POWELL: I serve at the pleasure of the president.

HANNITY: You know, this came up in the debate the other night. And John Kerry was asked the question, because the president often talks about the destiny of America and its connection to a good cause in God.

And John Kerry was asked the question, is God on America's side? And you think of a country like the United States, there's never been in the history of the world a country that has accumulated more power, abused it less and used it for good like the United States.

Do you think that -- would you want to crack at answering that question?

POWELL: I think we are a faith-based nation. It's inherent in all of our founding documents. The president speaks about it. Almost every president has spoken about faith.

And we have a moral compass that we follow. And I think as long as our moral compass remains grounded in the Bible and in the faith that brought this country to where it is, then that faith will smile on us.

HANNITY: Yes. Because the world does have a lot of evil in it. There's no doubt about it.

What do you think -- here you are. You served in the military a big portion of your life. The president was accused without any evidence or substantiation of being AWOL by Terry McAuliffe.

You have John Kerry, we found the comments he made about atrocities committed by soldiers in Vietnam. You know, this has now become a big part of the debate.

When you hear these things, what do you think about that?

POWELL: I regret that this has become an issue in the campaign. Vietnam was a painful period in our national life. And both of these men, President Bush and Senator Kerry, served. They served their nation. They served their nation honorably.

And let's talk about the issues of today and not go back and drag up old stories for the purpose of diverting us from what we ought to be doing right now, and that is, who has the better vision of a brighter future for the American people and the world.

HANNITY: And I assume that's George W. Bush.

POWELL: That's my view.

HANNITY: Mr. Secretary, good to see you again. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.


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