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Last Updated:12/4/02
Press briefing by Secretary of State Colin Powell, December 3, 2002

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell
Press Briefing on Board Plane en Route Bogota

U.S. Department of State
Office of the Spokesman
Bogota, Colombia


SECRETARY POWELL: Everybody here, OK? Good. Thank you for joining me on this relatively short trip, by usual standards, to Colombia. As you know, this is my third try at this trip. Some of you will vividly remember 9/11 when we were in Lima, Peru, and I was supposed to be heading to Colombia that afternoon. Then there was another occasion since when I had a crisis interrupt my plans to visit Colombia. But, I wanted to visit Colombia since I came into office, I think it's especially timely now, following President Uribe's visit to the United States. He's now been in office for several months and he has begun to implement his new national security strategy. We had a development with the AUC over the weekend with respect to a unilateral ceasefire.

I want to talk to him about our efforts to get more financing for his efforts and for the region into our, not only '03 but '04 budgets; I'll be submitting the '04 budget along with the President's budget. This will give me the personal insight that I can use when I have my budget testimonies early next year.

So it seemed a good time to reinforce our commitment to Colombia, to review their efforts on narcotrafficking, and narcoterrorism efforts. To take a look at the eradication efforts which have increased markedly in recent months; the number of hectares that have been dealt with increased pretty significantly over the past year.

And so I think that we've got some good things going, we're seeing a leader who's taking charge and is dealing with the problems that have faced Colombia for such a long period of time, problems that have threatened Colombia's democracy. And so I do look forward to my conversations with a number of groups tomorrow. You have the schedule and the itinerary, I presume. We can talk again on the plane after the press conference tomorrow, if that's appropriate. Questions?


QUESTION: On the eradication program, are we reaching the point where eradication is outstripping production?

SECRETARY POWELL: Are we reaching the point where eradication outstrips production? I doubt it. The experience is that one has to be on guard to make sure that as you eradicate and bring control over one area, it doesn't shift to another area. That's one of the things I'll be discussing with them tomorrow. If the acreage increases here -- acreage of crops destroyed -- do we see it moving to another area and therefore we have to expand our efforts.

But I would not say that in any place, we have ever reached the point where eradication has outstripped the production rate, in other words, it's negative. That would be a huge achievement. I'd like to see it happen because then it would be reflected immediately on the streets of America and elsewhere in the world.

But by such eradication efforts, you can control the amount of production if you are not yet in the position to reverse the trend and make less product available or in effect have a negative rate, which is what you're suggesting, George.


QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you explain please the transformation of the emphasis from against narcotics to terrorism, how it is that Colombia falls under the war on terrorism when the terrorism there seems not to be terrorism of a global reach as the President had defined it?

SECRETARY POWELL: For a number of years, our efforts were strictly directed at narcotrafficking. Congress wanted to make sure that we didn't get involved in the other aspects of the terrorism situation in Colombia.

But after 9/11, as we looked at terrorist activities around the world, and maybe the FARC and the AUC and the ELN do not have global reach in the sense that al-Qaida has global reach, but when you start to see members of the IRA in Colombia sharing experiences, sharing knowledge, doing heaven only knows what, it suggests that these kinds of organizations that are committed to destroying democracy in our hemisphere. Should that not be a concern of ours?

And that is why the President, since 9/11, has increased the attention we have given to terrorism of all forms, even if they may not all be of the form of al-Qaida. We can see that these connections start to take place, organizations start to deal with each other, work with each other. And if there is a danger to a democracy in our hemisphere, does that not affect our security within our hemisphere, especially with a nation such as Colombia which is a principal source of drugs for the American market.

It was on that basis that we went up to Congress and said, you know, we really should remove this barrier between narcotrafficking activities and narcoterrorist activities. It's all linked, narco is in both terms. Financing terrorism activities through narcotics activity. It all essentially leads to the same end, and that is the destruction of the Colombian democracy, affecting the people of this land in a very, very detrimental way. Therefore, we should approach this problem on a broader scale.

Congress agreed with that. And we hope that in next year's budget submissions, we'll get permanent authority to do that which we have received in the most recent legislation.


QUESTION: What is your assessment about the way the inspections are conducted in Iraq by the UN inspectors? Are you satisfied by the way that they are carried out?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think we are just at the beginning of the inspection process. Some of the activity that we've seen in the last couple of days really weren't inspections. They were UN inspection personnel going to sites to reestablish monitoring technologies, cameras and the like. Some people saw those as inspections, but they weren't inspections, as we saw them. We sought some inspections to places that were obvious and well known and we saw a few surprise inspections. And so I think that Dr. Blix, and Dr. El-Baradei are still bringing their teams up to strength. They are still reading their baseline data. They are still acquiring information from Security Council members and other members of the United Nations who might have information to bear. So far, I think that they are off to a pretty good start. I am not prepared to say that the inspections are working as intended because they are not up to strength and they are not up to speed yet. We will just have to be cautious, and see what happens in the days and weeks ahead. But I think they are off to a good start, in the sense that they are doing several different things, different ways of going about their business. And in my conversations with Dr. Blix, I know that we have a lot different ideas as to how to go about this business. It won't always be just going to a place. There are plenty of other things that I'll be doing besides just traveling to places.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what would you like to convey to the Brazilian president when he arrives next week, and also, would you have anything to say about the ongoing crisis in Venezuela and Haiti?

SECRETARY POWELL: We are very anxious to see President Lula and congratulate him on his success. And frankly, to hear plans he has for his country for improving the economic situation and how we can be most helpful. I would not prejudge what that conversation will be like yet. But we wanted to have him visit the United States early, and see the President early, as an expression of our interest in Brazil as a major country in our region, a large economy that needs help, and we want to see how we can be most helpful to him, as he starts his tenure as the President.

With respect to Venezuela, we have send out demarches to our friends in the region, encouraging other countries in the region, encouraging all of them to convey to Venezuela the same message that we convey: that the democratic process and the constitutional way of governing the country should always be kept in mind and be followed and that we hope the dialogue can begin in earnest between President Chavez and members of the opposition. We hope they will take advantage of the good offices of the OAS Secretary General, with whom we are in close touch.

On Haiti, I hope that with the strikes that are taking place now will be peaceful and do not result in a heightened sense of crisis. With respect to Haiti, I am concerned that the demonstrations in the streets have gotten larger and a little more intense, they were around our Embassy early today. Once again, the OAS is playing a role, seeing what can be done to move the political process along, which is at the base of the problems in Haiti. Political reconciliation and solving some of the political issues that have being hanging out for the last couple of years, is the way forward. I hope president Aristide will be able to move forward with the assistance of the OAS. I am pleased that earlier in the year we were able to solve some difficulties with respect to providing, or making, additional aid available to Haiti.

QUESTION: Mr Secretary, the Saudis had a press conference today, laying out things that they were going to do to try and satisfy the U.S., and others I'm sure, on money. Can you say whether the State Department has studied this? Do you think that this is adequate? Would you like for them to do more? And also, did this crowd that was outside our embassy in Haiti, were they going after… were they attacking the Embassy at all?

SECRETARY POWELL: On the second question, no, there was no attack on Embassy. It's just that the crowds were in that general vicinity. With respect to the Saudi presentation today, I wasn't able to see it, because of the traveling and the HIV/AIDS event we had at the Department. But I have read a summary of what Mr. al -Jubeir had said or put out… I was unable to watch it on television. I think it is a very comprehensive, forthcoming statement of their strategy is going to be moving forward. It talks about financial controls on these charitable organizations that have gotten so much attention lately. It talks about enhanced role for the Foreign Ministry in monitoring these organizations and higher levels of accountability, reenergizing the joint task forces working between the United States and the Saudis working on this issue. And overall, my initial impression -- I'm sure my buddies, my colleagues back at the Department are studying it in greater detail -- and also, in other parts of the government, at Treasury and Justice elsewhere. But it certainly seems to me to be a serious effort, not only to deal with our concerns, but to deal with the real problems that the Saudis have internally with these kind of issues. So I think that it's a serious effort. We should see it as such.


QUESTION: Another thing that al-Jubier said was that they actually have been doing more than it appears, but that the U.S. Government doesn't communicate with each other. Do you feel that that's accurate? Your statement now says that it sounds like they are addressing it… they're addressing the problems in their system. Are there problems in ours?

SECRETARY POWELL: Of course not. [laugh]. I always have said that the Saudis have done a lot. Sometimes people have accepted those statements and sometimes not. I stay in very close touch with the Saudi leadership, Foreign Minister Saud and Prince Bandar. You all know the close personal and professional relationship I've have had with Prince Bandar over the years. So I have always been aware that they have been doing a number of things that were responsive to our request and to our concerns. They have been doing things that have been shared with the State Department, with the Treasury Department, with Department of Justice. Could they do more? Yes, I've always said that. And we have asked them to do more, and now they have responded in what seems to me to be a fairly forthright way. Will there be more things we'll ask them to do? Yes. What's impressive about what I saw so far, in this initiative today, is that it is open as opposed to, you know, "Well, we are doing this, but you just may not see it." But this is an open, forthright, these are the things we are going to be doing. And it was addressed not only for governmental consumption, but the public consumption. I think that will be helpful. I am sure that agencies of the U.S. Government will examine their plan, I'm sure you all will examine the plan, and make your judgments about it. Now you'll have something to monitor, we will have something to monitor as we move forward.


QUESTION: The Administration has spent something like $300 to $400 million per year fighting terrorism in Colombia. But since '98, in East Africa, in Kenya, the amount spend on counterterrorism measures is about $3 million. It is hugely disproportionate. Do you have any plans? Are you thinking about increasing funding for fighting terrorism East Africa in light of what happened last week?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think our numbers are in the mid-$300 million for this year and is going up to $500 million next year. We provided some 72 helicopters in the past year and crews are now being trained. I hope that we'll be able to restart the air bridge denial program in the not too distant future. I'll be talking to the Colombians about the information I need from them in order to get the presidential determination ready. So, we'll be looking for ways that we can see if any shifts are appropriate in the way the monies are currently appropriated. Additionally, whether or not I need to go back to Congress for changed authorities in order to support other kinds of efforts. We are just as committed to social and economic development, investment and spending, such as the re-settlement of farmers who are re-orienting their farming activities. All of those kinds of efforts are part of, I believe, both narcotrafficking and narcoterrorism counter-activities. So I think there is recognition that these things blend together and they really are no longer separable. So, we'll have to take a look at how the money is being allocated and whether change is appropriate. I'll be listening very carefully to the Defense Minister tomorrow, as well as President Uribe.


QUESTION: Thanks. What is your message going to be for the Colombians regarding their new role at the UN Security Council?

SECRETARY POWELL: You know, this is their last month on the Council. They have the Presidency effective last Saturday. We would expect them to administer the Council in a responsible way. I was very pleased at the level of cooperation we got from them during the intense, seven-plus week debate, on Security Council Resolution 1441. They may have some difficult issues they will have to deal with over the next month as we see the Iraqi declaration come in and as we work on the goods review list re-authorization. But, I have no particular message. I think they have been good members of the Security Council. I have no reservations about the manner in which they'll conduct the presidency during their final month. That's not the purpose of this trip.


QUESTION: Yes. Are you planning to raise with the Colombian President the issues, concerns concerning the Attorney General's Office and the firing of the U.S. trained prosecutors in that office? And also, related to that, what would be the U.S. response to any sort of amnesty for the leaders of the paramilitary groups as has been requested in these peace talks?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not sure if we are going to get into individual personalities, but I will give to President Uribe a message that we've given to him before. He and I have had candid discussions on this, so have he and the President. Human rights have to be in the forefront of all of our joint activities. There will be a high expectation that as Colombian Armed Forces and Colombian Police are strengthened to deal with this problem, there can be no tolerance for abuse of human rights of the kind that has been seen in the past. People have to be accountable for their actions, whether they are wearing a police uniform or on a military uniform. That will be a strong component of our message.

With respect to individuals who are currently wanted for extradition in the United States, such as the leader of the AUC, who is under indictment and who is also under a prison term of 22 years under Colombian violations of law; I have no plans to say anything with respect to relieving that indictment or lifting the extradition. All we have seen so far is a unilateral announcement. We will see whether or not this cease-fire sticks and how things move as we go forward. But I, as Secretary of State, do not deal with indictments that have come out of a U.S. court.


QUESTION: One more question on the inspections, if you don't mind. Was there anything that you found in the inspections process so far that was 'not encouraging' as President Bush said yesterday?

SECRETARY POWELL: I think if you look at the context of the President's remarks, he was talking about the early Iraqi statements, the two letters they wrote and their responses being not encouraging. With respect to the specifics at inspection sites, so far the inspectors have been able to go where they said they wanted to go on the short notice they require, and they have not been interfered with as they arrived at those sights. The palace, one of these palaces that have been so much discussed, they were also able to go to. So, I would just characterize it as off to a good start, but it is the beginning. We really haven't seen the whole inspection regime played out yet. The word inspection is almost a bit misleading, because that immediately gives you a mind's eye view of a place, people showing up, checklist, inspect. But there is much more to this inspection regime that just going to places. There are documents to be looked at; there are other things to be looked at. There are people to be interviewed. So, this is much more comprehensive than merely going to a place, being allowed in, and leaving three hours later. And it is going to be a much more sophisticated process to get at the truth.


QUESTION: Believe it or not are the same. It's to what you have just said. Anything you can tell us more about progress that they've made in doing the interview?

SECRETARY POWELL: No. We're working through the modalities of how one would actually, let me use a horrible term, operationalize it, you know, make it happen. (Sorry, my past.) We are still working through that, as you can imagine there are some tricky issues, but I don't have any more on it at the moment. There are others in the community who are working on that, okay?


QUESTION: Next week the Iraqi opposition meets in London. We're led to believe that the administration would like them not to go ahead with a plan that calls for the exile community to lead the way. Is that true, and if so, why? What is your concern in that regard? And if I could tread just on the Colombian budget, is the Caño-Limon protection money likely to be in that for next year as well, too? The pipeline protection money in Colombia, is that likely to be in the budget next year too?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the opposition conference, next week in London, I don't have the agenda in front of me, and I am not sure what they'll be talking about or what my folks may have leaned them in the direction of. If the specific question is setting up a government in exile -- or set up -- any government in exile is by definition led by exiles. I don't know that they are anywhere near doing that, and I'm not sure that that would be timely. Let me talk to my folks to get a better sense of the agenda and I'll talk to you again about it before the trip is over. What was the second one? Yes, the pipeline denial. I haven't seen the details of the budget, but since we started the program I assume there will be a line item in there for continuation of the program. What was it, $89 million or something like that? 98? (Yeah - 89 is dyslexic 98.) But I don't recall it being a one-time expenditure, so I'll have to check to see if it was one time or continuing. But it is certainly a program we want to continue.

Bogotá, D.C.
December 3, 2002

As of December 4, 2002, this document was also available online at http://usembassy.state.gov/posts/co1/wwwscp16.shtml

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