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Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 14:28 GMT 15:28 UK
Powell: Saddam must go
US forces are on exercise in the Arabian Sea
US forces on exercise in the Arabian Sea
US Secretary of State Colin Powell has told the BBC that America feels the only way to be sure of disarming Iraq is through "regime change". He was speaking to our State Department correspondent, Jon Leyne:

CP: We've always said that the fundamental problem was Iraqi development and possession of weapons of mass destruction, and the inspection teams went in for seven years trying to root it all up and destroy it and then the job became untenable.

The US continues to believe that the most certain way to disarm Iraq would be a regime change.

Colin Powell
It was in 1998 that the US came to the position that regime change was probably the best way to achieve disarmament but disarmament has always been a goal of the United Nations resolutions in addition to other issues with respect to human rights and terrorist activities on the part of the Iraqis.

As the UK prime minister [Tony Blair] well put it, disarmament is the issue and that's what we are engaged in [with] the UN in the very first instance.

There are other things we want to deal with, other aspects of the resolutions such as human rights... terrorism... returning prisoners and repatriation of captured personnel but disarmament is front and centre.

JL: Does that mean that if Saddam Hussein lives up to his UN obligations - however unlikely that is - he can stay in power?

CP: I think we'll have to wait and see. We'll have to see how he responds to the pressure he is under from the international community.

I think what we saw over the last two weeks following President Bush's powerful speech at the UN on 12 September and the support he received from other nations and the pressure that generated on Iraq [was that] Iraq suddenly on the following Monday announced that they would let the inspectors in without conditions.

We really believe this is a test of the UN's resolve

Colin Powell
Now, this wasn't a sudden change of mind on their part that, "Oh, gee, we're now going to be forthcoming" or "Why didn't somebody tell us that you wanted inspectors in?", it was a direct response to pressure - that pressure has to be maintained on Iraq until the UN is satisfied that he has got rid of these weapons or allowed inspectors in to make sure of that.

It's the only way to do it. And then we'll see whether or not that's adequate or whether more action is required.

We really believe this is a test of the UN's resolve, a test of, frankly, the UN's mandate and purpose, and if the UN does not meet this test then it doesn't mean we can look away.

The president reserves his option to defend the US and our interests as indicated by the threat that we might be facing from Iraq.

I think the UK prime minister made a powerful case today [Tuesday] and the dossier that was put out was quite excellent in showing what Hussein has been up to for these many years.

Open in new window : Dossier at-a-glance
Iraq and weapons of mass destruction

JL: But if I'm one of those members of the UN Security Council you want to vote for this new tough resolution on Iraq, I want to know: am I voting for him to comply with his UN obligations or am I voting for regime change, which is still the stated policy of your government?

CP: The resolution that we are drafting with our British friends and with others on the Security Council we think should be dealing with three things: one, the offences, the violations of all these UN resolutions over time, two, what Iraq has to do to come into compliance or to get this indictment off them, [and three] there has to be some consequences contained in the resolution or resolutions because if there not consequences that flow from continued misbehaviour on the part of Iraq, then Iraq will just continue to misbehave.

We have seen this repeatedly for the past 11 years, so what we are asking people to look at in the resolution are those three elements and nothing in those elements talks about regime change within the UN context.

But the US continues to believe that the most certain way to disarm Iraq would be a regime change.

JL: So you're going to let the inspectors do their work?

We're going to try to get the inspectors in and the inspectors must go in under a new resolution because previous resolutions authorising their work had limitations within them and within arrangements made after the resolutions were passed - such things as certain facilities being off-limits.

I think if the inspectors are going back in they need a new authority and a new resolution so they can go any place, anytime, speak to anyone they have to speak to, to get to the truth, and not be delayed or interfered with in the conduct of their work.

And if Iraq was serious, if they didn't have weapons of mass destruction - and we believe that they do - but if they didn't and they were serious, they wanted to get this matter behind them, they would welcome every inspector imaginable, they would welcome the international community.

And so this is a test of the resolve of the United Nations, this is a test of the international community at its multilateral best against one nation that has been thwarting the will of the international community for these last 11 years.

The BBC's Peter Biles
"Nato ministers have received a detailed American briefing on the latest situation"
US Secretary of State Colin Powell
"If Iraq was serious they would welcome every inspector imaginable"
Iraqi representative in London Dr Mudaffa Amin
"British inspectors can come to Iraq with their dossier"

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25 Sep 02 | Politics
10 Sep 02 | Americas
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