Text: U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell

Thursday, Sept. 13, 2001

Following is the transcript of U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's news conference on the administration's effort to build a coalition of countries to support the fight against the terrorists involved in the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks.

POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.

I thought I would come down and give you an update on the activities of the department over the last 24 hours since last we spoke.

Let me begin by first expressing our regrets to other nations who have lost precious lives in this tragic occurrence on the 11th. We are focusing, of course, on Americans, but we've also seen that Great Britain thinks they've lost 100 people. I've heard from Australians, Japanese, South Koreans, Mexicans, Irish Nationals, Israelis and many others who worked in this World Trade Center. And our sympathy goes to not only these victims who will be in our prayers, but our sympathies go to their families.

In the last 24 hours, we have continued to work on our coalition building effort, and I'm very pleased with the results we've able to achieve. We spoke about NATO article 5 yesterday. The U.N. Security Council resolution, I think, is an especially effective resolution in that it calls on all states to participate and expresses the U.N. Security Council's determination and its readiness to take all necessary steps to respond to the September 11 attacks in accordance with the U.N. charter. By that language, it gives us the ability and any nation the ability to put forward on the agenda for Security Council deliberation any other issues related to this attack that we might want the Security Council to take up.

I'm very pleased also with the response of the European Union, with all the other international organizations who have come forward and responded in one way or another.

The president has been on the phone constantly, as have I, talking to leaders around the world and we are getting a solid expression not only of condolences and support, but of action. They want to work with us, not only in this specific case of what happened on the 11th of September, but in response to the general recognition that terrorism is a crime against all civilization. Terrorism is a crime against all humanity. It knows no ethnic, religious or other national or geographic boundaries and we must see it in that context and that's why we are calling it a war.

I have also been on the phone within the last two hours with Prime Minister Sharon and Chairman Arafat and with Foreign Minister Shimon Peres of Israel, trying to move forward the process of a cease-fire in the region, trying to begin those meetings that we have been talking about, which would lead to implementation of the Mitchell plan. I am still hopeful that something can be done in the next several days to have that first meeting and we will be in close touch with the leaders, as the next days unfold.

In addition to the United Nations Security Council resolution, I mentioned the General Assembly has passed its Resolution 56-1. We will be having a meeting with the Russians in the near future when Deputy Secretary Armitage travels to Moscow next week, and Mr. Boucher will give you an announcement on that a little later for the U.S.-Russian working group meeting on Afghanistan.

We have been in very close touch with the Pakistani government. Deputy Secretary Armitage met with Pakistani representatives again this morning and I expect to speak with President Musharraf in the very near future--in the next several hours--if I am able to reach him, to discuss the situation and exchange views on the situation in the region.

Our embassies are all hard at work. There have been some closures, and they go down and come back up in response to threat conditions. But our plan is to be actively engaged around the world and not let this heightened sense of tension affect our ability to do our job. And so we are encouraging all of our ambassadors to do smart things, to take all necessary safety precautions and to make sure their security is intact, but at the same time to continue doing America's business throughout the world.

I think I'll stop at that point and take your questions.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could I pursue Pakistan with you a bit? The president there made some general statement about cooperation. What does the United States want from Pakistan? And frankly, I'm confused whether the U.S. sees Pakistan as an ally or, as the ``Patterns of Global Terrorism'' pointed out, a place where terrorist groups get training. Or is it a mixture?

POWELL: We have provided to the Pakistani government a specific list of things that we think would be useful for them to work on with us, and I will be discussing that list with the president of Pakistan later this afternoon.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, as you said, since the attacks you've been receiving lots of messages of condolence, lots of statements of condemnation about the attacks, some that appear to be solicited, like this morning from the Pakistanis, who seem to be falling all over themselves to condemn terrorism in all its forms, but also some unsolicited ones like, I assume, from the Cubans, from the Libyans, from the North Koreans.

But of all of the seven countries on the State Department's state sponsors list, only one of them, I believe, has not condemned this, has not said anything. Does it raise any red flags with you that Saddam Hussein and Iraq have been silent about this?

POWELL: I'm not surprised. He is one of the leading terrorists on the face of the Earth, and I would not expect the slightest drop of the milk of human kindness to be flowing in his veins.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you talk about links between Iraq and Osama bin Laden?

POWELL: No, I would not. I would rather, if I were able to talk about such a matter, I don't think I would do it here.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, you keep talking about this specific list provided to Pakistan. When you talk to them later, when Secretary Armitage talks to them later or you talk to them, will it be, ``You have to do everything on this list or you're against us?'' The United States keeps putting out this, ``You're with us or against us.''

POWELL: Pakistan is a friendly country. We've had friendly relations with Pakistan for many, many years. Those relations have had ups and downs as a result of various things that have happened over the years. But right now we have friendly relations with Pakistan. And I have spoken to the president of Pakistan over the months and we had a very good conversation just a month or so ago.

And so, I will approach this as if I'm talking to a friend and a let a friend know what we would like to see happen in order to improve the situation in the region and the situation in the world. And I hope that the president will respond as a friend. Our initial indications are that he will. He put out a very fine statement, that you have a copy of, it's general, and we will get more specifics on it.

And our ambassador, who went in yesterday, we got a report of her discussions with him after she presented her credentials--she's just arrived--and he gave a strong expression of support--the kind of expression of support that you would expect from a friend who is trying to help us during this time of trial.

QUESTION: Just to follow that, will you be asking the president of Pakistan to have U.S. troops stationed in Pakistan, if you choose that?

POWELL: I really don't want to get into what I might or might not be asking the president of Pakistan until I have asked the president of Pakistan.

QUESTION: Secretary Powell, it sounds as if what you're saying is that up until now you've been hearing very positive statements, but that now it's sort of time to put their money where their mouth is.

POWELL: I wouldn't characterize it quite that crudely.

QUESTION: I'm sorry. I'm not a diplomat.

POWELL: Some say neither am I.


POWELL: But the fact of the matter is, we're going to have a responsible, sober discussion with the Pakistani government. And when the results of those discussions are complete and we have something to present to you, I assure you I will present it to you.

QUESTION: Why all the focus on Pakistan? Why is it so...

POWELL: We're focusing on everything and everybody. We're looking at those terrorist organizations who have the kind of capacity that would have been necessary to conduct the attack that we saw on the 11th.

We haven't yet publicly identified the organization we believe was responsible, but when you look at the list of candidates, one resides in that region. So without waiting for the whole body of evidence to be ready for us to make a judgment and a presentation to you, I think we're acting in a prudent way by talking to those governments in the region.

QUESTION: Can you tell us what you expect Undersecretary Armitage to get out of his talks with the Russians on Afghanistan? Are you asking for a very specific kind of help?

POWELL: We have not yet put together the agenda, but what impressed me is that Foreign Minister Ivanov when I spoke to him the other day was anxious for this meeting to take place. Deputy Secretary Armitage has spoken to his counterpart in Moscow. And two conversations that President Putin had with President Bush suggest to me that they are ready for active discussions, but I don't have the specific agenda with me right now.


QUESTION: ... the Russians know Afghanistan very well from their time in the '80s. They will be able to be helpful on topography, installations, what kinds of things?

POWELL: I'm sure they'll be helpful on many things. It's their neighborhood. They do have a great deal of experience in Afghanistan and we will draw on all of that experience.

QUESTION: Reports as of 1 a.m. that bin Laden was reported under house arrest by the Taliban; also two leaders, one an Egyptian and a military commander. If so, where would we ask--would we ask The Hague for extradition to the World Court? What would we do?

POWELL: Well, I have seen those reports, but I've also seen subsequent reports that say the first reports are not accurate. So let me not speculate on what is at the moment just a rumor.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, do you know if David Donahue is still in Kabul? We haven't heard that he's left.

POWELL: I don't know. I'll let Richard--he's left. OK.

QUESTION: My question is, are we having talks with the Taliban in Islamabad?

QUESTION: They are said to be desperate to avoid a U.S. attack and perhaps ready to talk about things they weren't ready for before?

POWELL: We have ways of talking to them, and we're exploring those ways now, and we also want to make sure exactly what it is we wish to present to them as items of discussion and not just general conversations.

QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) possibly listening more?

POWELL: I wouldn't say that yet.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, what kind of leverage do we have with Pakistan? They are sanctioned up to the eyeballs. We give them very, very little aid anymore. What can we possibly offer them that would make them cooperative in this case?

POWELL: You kind of said it in your QUESTION: They are sanctioned up to the eyeball, and they don't have that much aid now. We have been exploring with the Pakistani government many ways that we can move forward in the relationship and want to do so.

QUESTION: Are you delivering an ultimatum to the Taliban to deliver bin Laden or else to face the wrath of the United States?

POWELL: I don't think I said that. What I'm saying is that we are assembling the evidence that will tell us in a way that the world will fully concur with us who is responsible for this, and when we have done that, we will announce it. And at that point, we will go after that group, that network and those who have harbored, supported and aided that network, to rip that network up. And when we are through with that network, we will continue with a global assault against terrorism in general.

QUESTION: The list for Pakistan, does it include only requests for assistance in terrorism, to rip up this network that you're talking about? Or does it go broader than that?

POWELL: I would rather not characterize or comment on the list until we have had a chance to discuss it with the Pakistanis in detail.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, just for the record, when you spoke of the candidate who resides in that region, were you speaking of Osama bin Laden?


QUESTION: Could you answer the question about Iran? We've hopscotched all around. There are two significant factors here. As of January, there were several, if not more than a dozen, Shi'a Saudis training in aircraft and piloting down in Florida. Osama is a Sunni, not a Shi'a. He has no attachments to Iran, and Iran has a possible close attachment to the Kohbar bombing, as you know. Are we barking up the wrong tree here?

POWELL: We're barking up every tree that's out there. We're going to find the right tree with respect to what happened on the 11th of September, but we also recognize that there are other groups out there that mean us no good, that have conducted attacks previously against U.S. personnel, U.S. interests and our allies.

And the point we've been trying to make over the last several days is with the severity of this tragedy in Washington and New York against America, we now have to use this tragedy and respond to those and take care of those who are responsible for it. But at the same time, we should see this in a broader sense that this is a horrible blight on the civilized world. And so we will also be focusing on other organizations, terrorist organizations, who go after us, our citizens, our interests and allies.

QUESTION: You spoke about building a coalition, and you talk about tools such as the NATO Article 5 and the U.N. resolution. Are you speaking about war in a legal sense? Are you ready to declare war on this candidate--Osama bin Laden--or another candidate? And are you expecting these organizations to join you, much as you did during the Gulf War, in such a war? And are worried that using the language of war would carry with it specific guidelines as to war that you are not willing or able to follow?

POWELL: I am speaking about war. The president is speaking about war as a way of focusing the energy of America and the energy of the international community against this kind of activity. And war, in some cases, may be military action. But it can also be economic action, political action, diplomatic action and financial actions--all sorts of things can be used to prosecute a campaign, to prosecute a war. And we will be looking at every tool that we have, every weapon that we have to go after terrorism and to go after these specific organizations.

And in building a coalition, of the kind we're building now--and it's not that it will be a new organization, but between the U.N. and between the EU and NATO, and a number of other organizations that Richard can give you a list of who have come forward, we will not do it in such a way that if the United States feels a need to act alone by itself, we will not be constrained by the fact that we're working with others as well. But at the same time, because we are working with others, there may well come along specific things that can be done by all of us together.

POWELL: I think we all can agree that these kinds of organizations should be isolated financially, legally, in terms of getting into safe-haven countries. So there are many things we can do together. There may be some things that the United States has to do alone and we will always reserve the right to do that.

QUESTION: Several people in the administration have talked about the need for an increase in intelligence. Can you say whether this bureau will become more involved in the collection of intelligence?

POWELL: This bureau?

QUESTION: This building.

POWELL: This building?

QUESTION: Your building.

POWELL: Yes. I mean we are, in a sense, one of the major accumulators of information in the national security community through our representation around the world. And we will, hopefully, do everything we can to enhance our ability to collect and to analyze information in our bureau, working as a very, very important member of the overall intelligence community within Washington.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, among the options that I understand the administration is considering are ground forces, special operations forces going into Afghanistan if it's proven that they are responsible. The other thing that I had heard was that on the table is the use of tactical nuclear weapons. Are they on the table, Mr. Secretary?

POWELL: I have no idea where you're getting this kind of speculation from. I have never heard any such discussion.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, how does the United States draw the line between the sort of heavy massive retaliation that many Americans seem to want, on the one hand, versus wanton excessive destruction and the killing of innocents on the other? And has, in this case, has this development, this terrorist act created a situation where the U.S. concern about collateral damage has now gone down?

POWELL: We always have to be concerned about collateral damage, because we don't want to kill innocent civilians in the prosecution of any of our combat operations. I won't speculate on what kind of military actions might or might not be appropriate in the future, but we will always try to do all of our military actions while minimizing collateral damage.

The kind of organizations that conduct these terrorist activities make for difficult targets. It is not as if you are going after an army in the field or you're trying to destroy cities or fixed installations.

They're also a thinking enemy. They know what they've done, they know when they're going to do it, and they know what consequences might be coming back in their direction.

So you have to consider you're dealing with a very, very skilled, knowledgeable, thinking enemy, and we just have to think better than them, think faster than them, and be cleverer than them in order to respond in a sensible way with all of the weapons at our disposal. And one of those weapons is military force used in an appropriate way. It's not so much the size of whatever military response you might have, but does it do the job, does it get to the heart of the problem.

The president has made it clear that he doesn't see that this is going to be resolved with one single act, but it is a long-term campaign, which is why we are characterizing it as a war, if not in the technically legal sense of war, but in a sense that the American people understand, the people of the world understand.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, in this new initiative against terrorism, can you specifically say how U.S. counterterrorism policy has changed from last week? As you know, we have a number of multilateral agreements already on terrorism. How is it going to change?

POWELL: We have quite a number of multilateral agreements. We're looking at some of them right away, for the purpose of upgrading them, for putting new energy and resources into them. And so, I would say what has changed everything is the 11th of September, when we see what really can happen if we don't get on this problem.

We will recover from this. We'll be a stronger nation, a resilient nation, a determined nation. And so, we're going to use everything at our disposal to include the kind of organizations that you just described, to respond to counterattack, to destroy this blight on the world, to win this war. And we will come up with new policies. We'll come up with new procedures. We'll come up with new organizations. We'll come up with whatever it takes to prevail on this conflict, as the president has said.

Thank you.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company