By Thomas Eichler
Washington File Staff Writer
Washington -- Secretary of State Colin Powell said March 9 that there is a "strong chance" that the new U.S.-British-Spanish proposal on Iraqi disarmament before the U.N. Security Council will receive the needed nine votes for passage. The measure, which would set a March 17 deadline for Iraqi compliance with Security Council disarmament demands, is to be voted on in coming days.
Powell made the comment on NBC's Meet the Press. On another program the same day, CNN's Late Edition, Powell was asked what would happen if the resolution did not pass. "The president has shown a determination to disarm Iraq and to disarm Saddam Hussein of his weapons of mass destruction," Powell said. "And if we get the vote, fine, then the international community is unified behind that effort. If we don't get the vote, the president then will have to make a judgment as to whether or not we're prepared now to lead a coalition of the willing to disarm Saddam Hussein, to change the regime, because that seems to be the only way to get him to disarm. And I would not prejudge what the president might do, but I think the president has spoken rather clearly on this point for many, many months."
White House National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, interviewed the same day on ABC's This Week, said that if the proposed resolution did not win approval, "certainly, we will talk to members of the coalition. And let me just say, it will be a coalition. And one interesting thing about this coalition is it's made up in large part of states that have suffered under tyranny. And that should say something to people. And yes, at some point, the United States, at a time and place of its choosing, will lead a coalition to disarm Saddam Hussein and at that point, change its regime."
Asked if regime change were necessary in Iraq if Saddam Hussein complied fully with U.N. demands, Rice said the Iraqi leader is not showing that he intends to disarm, and if he did, "you have to ask yourself, are you willing to trust this regime once inspectors are gone, once sanctions are lifted, not to simply be the same threat again that it has always been." At another point in the interview, she asked "How long does anyone think that we can keep him in a box?"
Powell said on Meet the Press that the Saddam Hussein "regime has not yet indicated it would change itself, and time is running out. And when that time elapses, then the regime must be changed. ... At this point, if military action is required, it's because the regime has not changed itself, it is not complying with the demands of the international community, and therefore the regime has to be changed."
Asked on CBS's Face the Nation about the French and German preference for extending weapons inspections in Iraq for a few more months, Rice said "we've been down this road all through the '90s. ... We think that the time is now, because I can assure you, if we start talking about more months, well maybe he's making a little bit more progress, because he's a master at playing this game. He'll destroy a few more missiles here or there. He'll give up a document here or there. Maybe he'll allow an interview here or there. But [Security Council Resolution] 1441 was not structured in that way. When people voted for 1441, they voted for one final opportunity for Saddam Hussein to show that he made a strategic decision to disarm. He could do that tomorrow. He's not done it. He doesn't intend to do it. And what he intends to do is to keep stringing this down the road."
In the same interview, Rice pointed to past instances of Security Council reluctance to act in the face of international crises: "It's unfortunate that it couldn't act when the Kosovo crisis had reached really mammoth proportions with people being killed daily in the Balkans. It was unfortunate that the Security Council couldn't act in Rwanda. There was a very poignant discussion yesterday by President Kagame of Rwanda saying that sometimes the Security Council isn't right, that somebody should have acted despite Security Council inaction to save a million people in Rwanda. We have to get a Security Council that is capable of taking tough action, and that's the case we're making to people this week."
On North Korea, Powell was asked in his CNN interview why the United States was not willing to engage in direct bilateral talks with the North Korean government. "I think eventually we will be talking to North Korea," he said. "But we are not going to simply fall into what I believe is a bad practice of saying the only way you can talk to us is directly, when it affects other nations in the region. And this time, we need a solution that all nations are brought into.
"We talked directly to North Korea when we signed the Agreed Framework in 1994, and it turned out that that just became something that was parked as they went on to develop nuclear weapons through another technology. This time, we want a better solution. We want a solution that involves all the countries in the region. And I hope North Korea understands that it is also in their interest to have all the nations in the region a part of this dialogue. And within that broader dialogue, we'll be talking to the North Koreans."
On the same subject, Rice said on ABC that a multilateral forum is needed for North Korean talks to be effective. "[T]he collective weight of China and Russia and Japan and South Korea" need to be brought in, she said. "The North Koreans would like nothing better than to believe that this is really just a problem with the United States. And that it can somehow play off all of these other countries to get a little bit of loosening here and a little bit of loosening there."
Asked about the U.S. commitment to maintaining troops in South Korea, Rice said the administration would be happy to discuss the subject with South Korean leaders. "But no one should mistake the commitment of the United States to South Korea," she said. "No one should mistake the commitment of the United States to the region. We're going to keep a robust military presence in the region."