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Colin Powell: Weapon inspections just one tool

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell  

Editor's Note: CNN Access is a regular feature on providing interviews with newsmakers from around the world.

(CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell will meet Friday with the U.N. Security Council in an effort to persuade that body to draft a new resolution to get weapons inspectors into Iraq without delay. But before that meeting, he joined CNN anchor Paula Zahn to discuss President Bush's position on Iraq and what the president hopes to accomplish.

ZAHN: Do you think war is inevitable?

POWELL: War is never inevitable, and the president did not come to the United Nations yesterday to declare war. He came to the United Nations to lay out a case against a regime and an individual leading that regime that for 10 years has violated U.N. instructions, has violated international law.

And everybody has been suggesting that the United States should present its case to the world community, and that's what the president did [on Thursday]. And he put the problem squarely where the problem belonged, before the United Nations Security Council.

ZAHN: If you are able to get a resolution together that will get inspectors back into Iraq, do you think Saddam Hussein might surprise the world and comply?

POWELL: I gave up predicting what Saddam Hussein might or might not do many, many years ago. And we are not focusing on the inspectors at this point. We want to talk to members of the Security Council this morning, my colleagues from the 14 other countries of the Security Council, to make sure they understood the president's speech, the determination and the power behind his speech, and see how they would like to proceed.

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I think we need resolutions that record this indictment against Saddam Hussein and talks about actions that would be required of the Iraqi regime and what actions the international community might take in the event that he continues to violate yet another resolution. But this resolution, or resolutions if it turns out to be more than one, they have to be tough, they have to have deadlines on them, and they cannot be resolutions of the kind we have had in the past that the Iraqis can simply walk away from with impunity.

ZAHN: So, are you saying these initial resolutions will not, then, set any sort of timetable for inspectors to go back in?

POWELL: Well, we'll see what they set. But we have some ideas that go beyond just the issues of inspectors, and I'll be presenting those ideas to my colleagues in the Security Council.

ZAHN: Let's talk, though, about what you might have to face down the road, and that is the issue of inspections. Vice President Cheney has said he thinks inspections are dangerous. He thinks they would provide false comfort. How much faith do you have in restoring the concept of legitimate inspections, if that's the way this resolution leads everyone?

POWELL: I think it's very accurate, as the vice president noted, to view inspections with some skepticism. The first seven years of the inspection regime, they found out quite a bit. They destroyed a lot of material. But they didn't find out everything. And it was only later we discovered some of the other things that Saddam Hussein was doing.

So, inspections in and of themselves won't solve the problem entirely, but they are a tool that can be used. And I think the vice president was correctly saying, we have to be skeptical, and we should not think that just because if you've got inspectors back in, this problem is solved. It's just one tool that could be used.

But the issue of inspectors is not uppermost in our mind here in New York this morning with the Security Council. It's the nature of the indictment that's been laid before the international body on what Saddam Hussein has been doing for the last 10 years, and to try to achieve consensus within the Security Council on what we should do about it and how we can put a deadline on our actions so that he cannot continue to just walk away from these obligations and to treat the United Nations with this kind of disrespect.

ZAHN: So, as you are trying to achieve this consensus, can you explain to us this morning why you think the U.N. has allowed for Iraq to violate more than 16 long-standing resolutions?

POWELL: Because in the course of this 11 or 12-year period when these violations occurred, the United Nations was not prepared to take action against the violations. President Clinton in 1998 executed airstrikes against Iraq, but that didn't solve the problem. And the U.N. did not have sufficient inclination or strength, I guess political strength at that time, to take any more aggressive action.

This time, President Bush feels very, very strongly that you cannot just look away, and you cannot allow Iraq to flaunt the will of the international community. And we must come together to deal with this crisis, or it tends to make the United Nations somewhat irrelevant, and we can't have an irrelevant United Nations. It's a powerful, important international organization. It has a mandate from its founding charter that instructs it to deal with issues like this, and that was the point President Bush was making yesterday.

ZAHN: They tell me I have 20 seconds left. Do you believe that the U.N. has the inclination this time around to make these resolutions stick?

POWELL: I think that the U.N. will take it much more seriously this time around, because of the determination shown by President Bush to make sure that we do something this time and not let Saddam Hussein walk away. And I'll be testing that proposition in the course of today, and in the days and weeks ahead, as we structure these resolutions.

ZAHN: We appreciate your time.




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