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Press Conference from Bogota Secretary Colin L. Powell

Bogotá, Colombia. December 4, 2002

SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I am very pleased to be here in Bogota and I would like to express my thanks to President Uribe for all the courtesy he has extended to me and members of my party, and also, if I may, express my thanks to our Ambassador Patterson for all the hard work she and the members of her team put in every day, especially preparing for my trip on short notice.

I've been looking forward to this trip for a long time. As you may know, I was scheduled to visit Colombia on September 11th, 2001. I was coming here from Lima, Peru, and it was on that morning that we had the tragic incidents in New York and Washington and I had to cancel my trip at that time.

However, the brutal attacks of that day which forced me to return to Washington really represented a change, frankly, in world history and the way in which we had to look at our world, look at the subject of terrorism. Yes, the world changed on that tragic day, and since that tragic day the change has continued. But the United States commitment to defending and strengthening Colombia's democracy has not changed. If anything, our commitment has grown even stronger as we stand together against the threats of terrorism that both of our countries face.

I have met with President Uribe now several times, most recently during the successful visit to the United States last September. However, this is the first time we had a chance to meet together here in Colombia. Our meeting today allowed us to continue the close cooperation that our countries enjoy. Together, we renewed our commitment to work toward our common goals of strengthening democracy, increasing respect for human rights, combating drugs and terrorism, and especially, and perhaps most importantly, widening the circle of economic prosperity to include all Colombians within that circle.

I congratulated the President on Colombia's upcoming presidency of the United Nations Security Council. They are in the presidency chair now and for the remainder of this month. Colombia has played an important role as a non-Permanent Member of the Security Council, most notably by its unwavering support for a new resolution giving Iraq one last chance to comply with its international obligations to disarm. Colombia's support for Security Council Resolution 1441 was only one example of President Uribe's admirable stance against terrorism, terrorism within Colombia as well as terrorism as a global threat.

Today, Colombia is engaged in its own war against terrorism and the narcotrafficking that funds it. The United States stands with the people of Colombia in this struggle. The President has committed his administration to taking the difficult steps needed to provide security throughout Colombia and we support him in those efforts. He is also committed to making the necessary investment in social and development programs to promote long-lasting peace and stability in Colombia. Security and economic development, sustainable development, are linked with security to create an environment where people want to come and invest in Colombia, to visit Colombia. And as they come and invest and visit Colombian and bring resources into Colombia, jobs are created. And when people see these jobs, they will see alternatives to growing illicit crops. They see the benefit of supporting the democratic process, and that, in return, enhances security. It's a cycle that repeats over and over.

Clearly, there is much to be done in these areas. Today, I applauded the President for his strong conviction and for his successful effort to date.

While here, I've also discussed human rights with representatives of the Colombian Government and also with Colombian nongovernmental organizations. In each instance, I have noted that protecting human rights remains a priority for us and that this is an area where we need to continue making progress. I know that President Uribe shares this concern and this vision.

We support your new national security strategy. It is a comprehensive plan to build a healthy democracy. A key part of that strategy, indeed, the part that makes everything else possible, is that element of the plan directed towards defeating the deadly combination of terrorism and drugs.

A significant portion of our assistance is also dedicated to democracy building and anti-corruption programs, as well as for social and economic development. To date, we have provided over $1.8 billion in Plan Colombia assistance, and for our 2003 Fiscal Year, we have requested from Congress $573 million more. And in the monies that we are provided, close to 30 percent goes to development programs of the kind that are so vitally needed.

We have been very impressed with your President's commitment to eradication. Colombia's Government has sprayed a record number of hectares of coca this year, sending a clear message to growers and to the world that Colombia will not tolerate the cultivation of illegal crops.

When I return to Washington, I intend to make the case before our Congress for full funding for our Colombia programs. This is a partnership that works and a partnership we must continue to make and invest in.

I also commended President Uribe for his economic leadership which is helping to put Colombia on the solid economic footing required to defeat the narcoterrorists and assure greater prosperity for the Colombian people, as I noted earlier.

President Uribe's leadership in this realm has also allowed President Bush to approve the expansion of tariff benefits for Colombia under the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act. I know that this action will strengthen the close commercial relationship between our countries and increase the competitiveness of Colombian products in the United States market.

I am also confident that the United States and Colombia will cooperate together to play an important role as we move towards a Free Trade Area of all of the Americas.

In closing, I would like to thank the President and members of his cabinet and the people of Colombia that I've had a small occasion to meet, thanking and shaking a few hands, thank them for the warm hospitality they have extended to me and to the members of my delegation.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, could you go over the (inaudible) assistance in Colombia (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, as you know, we pretty much put our '04 budget submission together. There will be funds there to assist with drug eradication efforts. I hope that we'll be able to start up the air bridge denial program early in the new year and there will be support for that effort.

As I noted, this year's commitment of $137 million for economic development and infrastructure development. I had pretty useful conversations with the President and Foreign Minister and Minister of Defense about the kind of support that will be required to expand our cooperation with military and police forces, intelligence sharing, law enforcement activities, and what would be needed to keep the equipment that we have provided to them in the past well maintained and in the highest level of operational readiness so that we can achieve the purpose for which they were sent to you, and those additional funds which will be required to increase capability and not just maintain capabilities.

So I think it's a full range of programs that we're looking at that deal with security issues, development issues, (inaudible), law enforcement matters, eradication, and, in fact, I think, a couple of highlights (inaudible) the programs (inaudible).

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, good afternoon. We would like to know what is the decision of the United States about (inaudible) with the paramilitaries here in Colombia (inaudible) decision on the Carlos Castana extradition.

SECRETARY POWELL: We took note of the announcement made by AUC on the 29th that they were declaring a unilateral ceasefire effective on the 1st of December. This is the beginning of a long process. We think that this was a good step, but it is a long way from being an actual ceasefire and it is a long way from leading to discussions that could lead to a solution to the problem of paramilitaries. And so the President and I had a chance to discuss this at length this morning. One has to be very cautious as you enter into this kind of process, this kind of dialogue, and I think the President is approaching it with caution. At the same time, I know he does not want to miss an opportunity if an opportunity has presented itself.

The United States will stand behind President Uribe as he moves down this road and support him in any way that is appropriate. And with respect to legal matters, indictments and extradition requests relating to leaders of the AUC, those indictments remain in place and of course the extradition requests remain in place, and there was no discussion today of removing such a request or taking action within the American judicial system to eliminate any indictments. These gentlemen have much to account for, not only under US law but under Colombian law, as well.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, (inaudible). I'm sorry to ask you a question that (inaudible) Colombia (inaudible), but do you have concerns that Iraq may have developed a particularly dangerous strain of smallpox and that they may have gotten it from the Russians? And are you confident that the Russians don't have any other of these kinds of secret programs now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I don't know what the Iraqis might have. That's the reason that the United Nations has put forward a demand to Iraq to come forward and fully disclose all of the programs they have and have had in the past with respect to weapons of mass destruction. And I hope that in the declaration that the Iraqi Government has said they will be providing on the 7th of December, they are forthcoming, totally forthcoming with respect to what they might have and where it came from.

I don't know what the Russians might have in their inventory. We are in constant contact with the Russians on this issue. It has been the subject of discussion between President Bush and President Putin over the years.

The particular story, I think, that generated your question, Betsy, I cannot comment on and I would have to refer you to the CIA or some of the other agencies in Washington that seem to be the one that the question had come to in the first instance.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) The government has invited the FARC for (inaudible) negotiations and it is considered by the United States as a terrorist organization. What will be the position of the United States Government on this?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have designated the FARC, ELN and the AUC as terrorist organizations, and they certainly have demonstrated that they are deserving of such a designation by what they have done to Colombia's democracy and Colombia's promise of economic development and what they have done to the most disadvantaged citizens of Colombia by causing such distress and unrest and terror throughout the countryside. They continue to deserve those designations.

As the Government of Colombia moves forward with talks and negotiations, we will monitor it carefully, and none of our designations will change until the situation is changed and the kind of threat presented by these organizations and the kinds of activity they have been engaged in up to the present are no longer part of their agenda. But just to say that we are going to begin discussions as a suggestion that somehow the designation should be changed isn't going to happen, nor would it be our position to say to the Colombian leadership who they should or should not speak to as a way of finding a way forward out of this tortured past.

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, back on your last answer, the Iraqis have now come out today and said that there won't be any mention of weapons of mass destruction on their declaration because they don't have any. What will the US do if that is, indeed, how the declaration comes out on Saturday or Sunday?

And if the US does decide to take action, what is your understanding of Turkey's position on this? There have been a couple of statements that go back and forth in the last couple of days.

SECRETARY POWELL: The Iraqis are always making statements that contradict each other day after day. I think the best thing for us all to do now, rather than speculate and raise hypothetical questions about what Saddam might do in the future, is to wait and see what the declaration says when it is received.

We are absolutely sure -- it is a matter of record -- that Iraq has had weapons of mass destruction in the past, we are absolutely sure they have continued to develop weapons of mass destruction, and we are sure they have in their possession weapons of mass destruction. And the burden is on them to prove that they don't have. And if they do have, they had better acknowledge it and make those programs accessible to the UN inspection teams.

The United States believes that the international community is totally united in placing the demands of Resolution 1441 squarely on the Iraqi Government. It is their responsibility to answer to the international community and to answer fully. And we know they have had such weapons, they have such weapons, and they continue to try to develop more weapons. And it's time for them to make a judgment, as the President said repeatedly: Are they going to cooperate or will we have to disarm them forcefully?

With respect to Iraq, as you know, Deputy Secretary of Defense Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of State Grossman have visited there and had good conversations with our Turkish colleagues. We were not there to tell them that we are ready for a war. We were there to exchange ideas and exchange views with respect to how to keep the pressure up on the Iraqi regime so that there is no confusion in the mind of Iraqi leaders that if we do not find a peaceful solution under 1441 the international community, I predict, will be unified in using force. And Secretary Wolfowitz and Secretary Grossman's trips were part of the continuing dialogue we have with Turkey on that subject. I will let the Turkish Government speak for itself as to what its position is (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) What does the United States -- what does the government expect of the (inaudible) president of the Security Council of the United Nations? You know, and there are also (inaudible) bilateral (inaudible).

SECRETARY POWELL: The Government of Colombia has been a very important partner with us in the Security Council in recent months, and I once again express my appreciation to the cooperation they gave to us in the negotiation of Resolution 1441. They played a very helpful role, a responsible role. They just didn't say, you know, "What do you want us to do?" They asked questions. They wanted to know what our agenda was. We satisfied them and I was pleased that we received the full support of Colombia.

I think that as president of the Council for this month, we will see that same kind of responsible role. Some important issues will be coming to the Council in the month of December and I would fully expect that the Council will have to deal with the Iraqi declaration. And what we expect from the presidency (inaudible) is to make sure that when the report comes forward as to what is in the declaration we have an open, full, comprehensive debate on the nature of the declaration, whether the declaration meets any reasonable standard of accuracy and it is forthcoming: Does it represent a sincere effort on the part of the Iraqi to tell the world what they are supposed to tell the world about their weapons of mass destruction?

We have every reason to be skeptical -- Iraq has lied repeatedly in the past -- and we will approach this with a skeptical attitude, but nevertheless with an open mind. And we know that Colombia will dispatch its responsibilities as president of the Council (inaudible).

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) Mr. Secretary, as you come to Colombia, I believe (inaudible) receive a massive amount of US support, as well as money and some personnel. Does that kind of give you pause or concern, especially in a place that, with narcotics, we've seen coming from the (inaudible)?

SECRETARY POWELL: No, I don't see this in Vietnam terms. I don't see this as a movement from another country such as North Vietnam that has roots in ideological differences and national and Cold War confrontation.

This is a case where groups within Colombia are trying to overthrow a democratically elected governments by attacking them, by growing narcotics. Narcotics have come to the United States and we have much of the responsibility for the problem as anyone in Colombia. We have more responsibility for this problem because we provide the demand for those narcotics. So we have also threatened, by our demand, Colombian democracy.

But we should not try to romanticize these groups into some sort of triumphant freedom fighters. They're terrorists. And for years they have tried to undercut the hope of the Colombian people to have a government that focuses its energy, that focuses its resources, its treasure, on economic development, on education, on health care, but instead it has to divert those resources to fight terrorists and fight narcotrafficking.

The Colombian people have been denied the right to use the resources of their country to develop a democratic country with a free enterprise system where we can take care of peasantry, take care of all the people in Colombia, but instead they're fighting terrorist organizations.

It's a good -- indeed, it is very good that the President has taken on this challenge. He has not stepped back from it, but has said he will give it his full attention in his administration. We are pleased to help him. We want to see other nations around the world help Colombia. The Europeans can do a lot more. They're committed to do a lot more but we need to see their checks show up. And we'll be working with the Europeans in that regard, as well.

I don't see a parallel even though the helicopters are remarkably familiar.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter.) President Uribe, the President of our country, has insisted on more assistance to Colombia. What might that assistance be?

SECRETARY POWELL: Without being more specific, I would have to ask that you direct your question to President Uribe. But I can tell you that he has made it clear to us that he is deeply appreciative of the assistance we have been providing under Plan Colombia, the assistance we have been providing through the Andean Trade Preference and Drug Eradication Act, our desire to create free trade zones in our part of the world.

He had additional ideas about how we could provide support for economic development and security programs. I would like to be able to get a lot more funding for Plan Colombia but, as you know, there are limits to what the United States is able to do within our own country and around the world.

And so I go back with a better understanding of what he needs. I know that he would like to see more resources come to Colombia, and I will try to make that case before our Congress but there are practical limitations to how much money can be funded.

QUESTION: (Via interpreter) Secretary Powell, what response, Mr. Secretary, did the Government of Colombia give to the request for immunity for US personnel and military and civilians.

SECRETARY POWELL: We did discuss what is called Article 98 of the International Criminal Court, the Rome statute. As you know, the United States is not a member of the Court. We have not ratified that statute and won't be ratifying it, Colombia has.

The statute provides for Article 98 agreements with those countries who do not wish their citizens to be subject to the Court when serving in other countries. We have asked the Government of Colombia to provide Article 98 coverage for all American servicemen who are in Colombia, and they believe, after their examination of it so far, that they can only do it with respect to respect to official presence.

So we did not resolve that issue. We laid out our respective positions and I told the President we look forward to continuing this discussion until we find a solution that is mutually acceptable to both of us.
Thank you.

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