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REP. KOLBE: The Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing and Related Programs will come to order.
Mr. Secretary, it's my pleasure to welcome you here this morning. Before I do, let me also welcome our other -- our new members who are here; I should say new and old members returning. Ms. Kaptur has been on the subcommittee before, and we welcome her back for this --
REP. MARCY KAPTUR (D-OH): Mr. Chairman, if I could ask the gentleman to yield -- I hope you don't say "old" but "former."
REP. KOLBE: Former member, thank you. (Laughter.) Thank you. I stand corrected -- (inaudible) -- difficulty. (Chuckles.)
REP. KAPTUR: That's right.
MR. : I don't know about that!
A Representative from Arizona, and
Chairman, Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, Export Financing
and Related Programs,
House Appropriations Committee
REP. KOLBE: And new members that are on the subcommittee for the first time and on the full committee for the first time include Mr. Kirk at the end there. We also have Mr. Vitter and Mr. Crenshaw, who I believe will be with us here shortly. So we welcome them as members of this subcommittee.
Mr. Secretary, your country and certainly this committee holds you in very high esteem as the primary foreign policy advisor to the president in what, I think, are clearly very challenging times. I know that all the members are very anxious to ask questions and exchange views with you, so I'm going to make my remarks brief.
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COLIN L. POWELL
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
SEC. POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. I'm very pleased to be here with you. And let me respond to that last point.
U.S. policy with respect to Iraq is not just something that has been developed in the last month or so; one can go back many years to the end of the Gulf War. And when that war ended, resolutions were passed that said Iraq should disarm itself of its weapons of mass destruction. And you well know the history of the last 12 years of continued Iraqi defiance of their obligations under those resolutions, a total of some 16 resolutions. And finally 1441 was passed by the United Nations, where the whole international community came together -- Arab nations and European nations and nations in this hemisphere -- came together, that said Iraq must be disarmed. And it has been U.S. policy for many years that Iraq should be disarmed.
In 1998, when there seemed to be no progress toward the disarmament of Iraq, the administration at that time put in place what was called regime change policy, which seemed to be the only way to get this regime to disarm, was to change the regime itself. And that policy was also put in place by the United States Congress, which, in legislation passed in 1998, supported efforts as may be necessary to get a change in the regime.
This administration came in. The president examined very carefully our policy with respect to all the nations of concern to us, whether it was Iraq, Iran, North Korea, other nations, and he continued the policy of regime change, not expecting that there was any other way to disarm Iraq.
But the president took one last chance for peace, and that's when he went to the United Nations to see whether or not this regime would change itself in the presence of 1441 and massive international political pressure as well as the buildup of military forces to support diplomacy or to militarily change the regime.
This is a policy that was developed over two administrations over many years, and it remains our policy today. It is driven by our own national interests. It is driven by us trying to help the United Nations do its job. It is driven by our concern for the people of Iraq.
Of course we have a concern for the state of Israel. We have been one of Israel's strongest supporters, if not its strongest supporters, for many years, 50 years, and we will continue to do so; but we have other friends in the region as well. All across that part of the world we have close alliances, whether it's Saudi Arabia, whether it's Egypt. These are nations that have been friends of ours for many years. We also have a commitment to trying to help the people in the occupied territories to create a Palestinian state, and President Bush is committed to that.
So we have a comprehensive policy for the region, and our region -- the strategy with respect to Iraq has derived from our interest in the region and our support of the U.N. resolutions over time. It is not driven by any small cabal that is buried away somewhere, that is telling President Bush or me or Vice President Cheney or Condi Rice or other members of our administration what our policies should be.
I would also point out that this past fall the Congress of the United States passed another resolution supporting the president's efforts to cause Saddam Hussein to come into compliance. And the joint resolution passed by the Congress said we should do it through the U.N., and if that doesn't succeed, then we should be prepared to use United States armed forces in a willing coalition.So this is not just the result of a few individuals who are running loose, as some suggest, but it's a comprehensive policy developed over the years, over several administrations, with the support of the United States Congress, as reflected in last fall's joint resolution and the action the Congress took in 1998.
REP. KOLBE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. I think it's important to have that response on the record.
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Mr. Rothman. (Pause.) Yes. Mr. Rothman.
REP. STEVEN R. ROTHMAN (D-NJ): Mr. Secretary, it's always a pleasure to see you and have you here, come before us. I want to talk first about Iran.
There are reports in the press that Iran has introduced uranium hexafluoride into some centrifuges to test their functionality. If this is in fact true, would this be a violation of the Nonproliferation Treaty? And what would be the course of action for the United States? And regardless of whether that report is true or not, what is your view as to the present danger to the region and America's interests now presented by Iran, not only in its nuclear program, but also in its active support of Hezbollah in Lebanon, for example?
SEC. POWELL: With respect to the specific question about the hexafluoride, we are deeply concerned about some new information that has been found out about Iran's nuclear programs, and we're waiting to see the final judgment made by Dr. Blix and the IAEA. And I spoke to Dr. -- excuse me -- Dr. ElBaradei and the IAEA. I got my inspectors mixed up briefly. And I spoke to Dr. ElBaradei about it last Friday and look forward to a definitive statement.
But the United States been saying for some time that we are deeply concerned about Iran's efforts to not only have nuclear power, but to use that nuclear power infrastructure to develop the capability to produce nuclear weapons. We've raised this issue repeatedly. We have talked about the "axis of evil" and been criticized for it. And lo and behold, we discover they had a far more robust nuclear infrastructure that could be used for weapons develop than people had thought or wanted us to believe. We were seen as suspicious and we shouldn't be moving in this direction, but now we have a real concern.
When you marry that up with their continued support for terrorist organizations that foment terror in Lebanon and other places throughout the Middle East, I believe that our concerns with respect to Iran were well-founded. And the president's willingness to point this out directly in the course of his two-plus years of leadership have been proven correct.
REP. ROTHMAN: While I applaud the president for identifying Iran as one of the members of the "axis of evil," I just want to get a better handle on what the administration is doing about it and, for example, what steps the administration is taking, for example, to support what I believe are the vast majority of Iranian citizens who would no longer wish to be oppressed by the handful of religious fanatics now ruling that country, despite the fact that the people twice now have chosen, overwhelmingly, reform candidates.
SEC. POWELL: With respect to the nuclear programs, we have been in close touch with IAEA and with Russia and other providers of this kind of technology and infrastructure to the Iranian government.
With respect to the basic issue that you raise, though, the young people of Iran -- especially the young people of Iran, but all the people of Iran -- they believe a better life is ahead of them if they could somehow get their leaders to understand this. And right now you have a battle taking place between the forces of the political leadership, under Mr. Khatami, and the religious leadership, under Mr. Khamenei. And we continue to put out a message to the Iranian young people and to the Iranian people that the United States supports them in their efforts.
REP. ROTHMAN: Mr. Secretary, just one last question, a two- parter. Has the United States made it clear to the Iranian government what we are -- would be prepared to do, should Iran take further steps to create nuclear missiles, to create nuclear bombs and then the vehicles to deliver them?
And the other part of the question has to do with Syria and the -- how the administration believes Syria is complying with the Taif agreement and whether you are optimistic about the continual withdrawal of Syrian forces from Lebanon. They apparently went from 20,000 down to 16,000. Can you envision the day when the Syrian occupiers will leave Lebanon to the people of Lebanon?
SEC. POWELL: With respect to, you know, have we given the Iranians some ultimatum of some kind or what we do if they continued moving down this road, no.
But we've made it clear to the Iranians and to those who support Iranian nuclear efforts and missile developments that we find this to be irresponsible action on their part. And the Iranians know what our views are with respect to these sorts of efforts without us giving a specific, as we never would, telling them exactly what options we might take if we found ourselves threatened.
With respect to Syria, I hope it is the beginning of a longer drawdown that would go to nothing, but I can't be optimistic about that. We were pleased to note that there has been a reduction of the kind of you suggested, but I've seen ups and downs in the number of Syrian troops in Lebanon on and off offer the years. So I cannot tell you whether this is on a path to get down to zero and let Lebanon be ruled by the Lebanese people without the presence of an occupation army.
REP ROTHMAN: But that is our objective. That's our national policy.
SEC. POWELL: It's been our objective, yes, sir.
REP. ROTHMAN: Thank you, sir.
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