Spain to Syria– Talks on Iraq and the ‘Road Map’


The U.S. backed ‘road map’ is the political path to peace. Still, Islamic extremists call for the destruction of Israel despite political talks. As depicted here, a Palestinian boy walks among terrorists from the Al Aqsa brigade of Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement carrying rocket propelled grenades in Gaza. Saturday, a British journalist, James Miller, was killed in the area. Witnesses give different accounts, with the PLO placing blame on the Israelis. At least one other reporter in the area saw Palestinian terrorists firing at Israeli troops from a crowd of civilians including children. Israelis were fired upon and returned fire in defense. Reportedly there is an investigation into James Miller’s death, with one witness saying that the gun fire on Miller came from the Palestinian side.

Photo by Hatem Moussa / AP Photo

Powell began a three-day trip to Europe and the Middle East on Thursday last week, in which he visited Coalition countries regarding Iraq and stopped in Damascus and Beirut.

Before the meetings in Syria, U.S. Secretary of State Powell told the press in Damascus that he was there to address terrorist organizations in Syria that are a threat to Israel and the world. He wants Syria to end support to organizations "that are headquartered in Syria that have rejectionist agendas." And he said that also at issue are "weapons of mass destruction development, sealing of borders with Iraq and a number of issues that are well known."

In Arabic, reporters asked about the ‘road map.’ Powell said "both sides have to reach out and begin dialogue with one another on security issues, on economic issues, on political issues, ultimately. It all has to begin, however, with the cessation of violence and the ending of acts of terror."

On ABC’s "This Week", George Stephanopoulus interviewed Powell about his 3 hour meeting in Syria with President Assad. He asked Powell about the trustworthiness of the Syrian leadership’s word: "Syria has double-crossed you in the past. A couple of years ago, President Assad promised to stop the flow of oil, Iraqi oil, through the Syrian pipeline, and then the flow continued. How can you be sure that President Assad will keep his word this time?"

Powell answered: "I don’t — it’s not a matter of me being sure. It’s a matter of him [President Assad] performing. I reminded him at our meeting yesterday of his promise two years ago that was not kept, and that we would be measuring performance this time and not assurances."

Powell visited Tirana on Friday (2 May), joining the foreign ministers of Albania, Croatia, and Macedonia in signing the US-Adriatic Partnership Charter. "This charter will serve as a roadmap to them on their path to Euro-Atlantic integration," Powell said. "Every European democracy that seeks NATO membership and is ready to share NATO responsibility should be welcomed into the Alliance," he added.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, left, adjusts his headphone beside Spain’s Foreign Minister Ana Palacio during a press conference in the La Quinta palace just outside Madrid, Spain Thursday, May 1, 2003 where the two earlier held talks. Powell is on a one day visit to Madrid.

Denis Doyle / AP Photo

Spain was the first of Powell’s meetings on the road to Damascaus; on Thursday he had a brief meeting with Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and spent time with his counterpart, Spain’s Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, to discuss the EU’s role in rebuilding Iraq and the much talked about ”road map’ to peace–a plan that Israel says must be based on performance in terms of PLO stopping terrorist attacks, rather than a ‘road map’ that is based on dates.

What Syria might do to prevent a peaceful process to the planned ‘road map’ is of great concern. Ana Palacio told reporters after meeting with Syrian’s leaders that she saw Syria’s stance on Middle East peacemaking changing and hoped the country would support the ‘road map’ plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace.

Spain has been fighting terrorism for years in the Basque region and has made successful arrests of al-Qaeda operatives in the Barcelona region of the country. Almost inexplicably Spain and Britain (UN Security Council members and members of the EU) have been under intense pressure from members of their parliament and loud factions in the populace to take more action in forming a Palestinian state. Both countries have a significant Islamic population and they also have key positions in the media.

U.S. Secretary of State Powell was asked during an interview for Spanish television about the Israeli-Palestinian road map and did he think that the proposed road map would be different from others. Powell called Arafat "a failed leader" and said that "there is a significant difference now, and that is that the Palestinian Authority has begun to transform itself. A new Finance Minister came in some months ago-has grabbed hold of Palestinian finances, and we now have confidence that their finances are being dealt with in a transparent, uncorrupt way." Reportedly millions of dollars of US aid to Arafat for the Palestinian people was put in secret bank accounts in Egypt and for other uses, but Arafat did not use the money for the Palestinian people and used it for secret activities.

A Palestinian billionaire by the name of Monib al-Masri was rejected by Arafat and his Fatah party for Abu Mazen to be the new Palestinian Prime Minister. Abu Mazen, also known as Mahmoud Abbas, was the PLO deputy chief, and according to reports Mazen financed the massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes in Munich in 1972. Despite his ties to terror, Mazen was welcomed in 1993 after Oslo to the White House with Arafat.

Abu Mazen in 2003 is being touted as a moderate. However, as Powell was in Spain talking about the ‘political process’ having a future now in Iraq, the first day Mazen took office there was another Palestinian terrorist attack against innocent people, this time at a night club in Tel Aviv where the homicide bomber, wearing explosives, killed 3 and seriously wounded over 50 tourists and Israeli citizens.

Reportedly in a statement released to the press on May 4th by the PLO, they want the immediate implementation of the ‘road map’ based on the ‘time schedule and international control,’ and they are demanding that Jerusalem be their capital. Israeli officials stated Sunday, the ‘road map’ should be based on ‘performance’ by the PLO in stopping all terrorist attacks against Israeli citizens and tourists visiting the State of Israel as a condition for the advancement of the ‘road map’ plan.

Powell told ABC on Sunday "the violence and the actions of those committed through the Intifada have not produced a Palestinian state, peace for the Palestinian people or any movement toward their goals." "So it’s time to end that and move on down this roadmap and with performance on the part of both sides, I think we can get somewhere."

Palestinians carry pictures of terrorist Abdul Abbas in protest of his arrest in Iraq, Saturday May 3, 2003.

str / AP Photo

The connection to terror in Syria and Iraq have been a constant force in preventing security and peace for Israel. Palestinian terrorist, Abu Abbas was found living in Iraq, and on April 14, Abu Abbas was captured.

Abbas lived in southern Baghdad. "Abbas was described as the secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Front," said Army Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks. "Abu Abbas is a terrorist. He was a terrorist and he remains a terrorist, and he will be viewed as such."

Abu Abbas, also known as Mohammad Abbas, planned the 1985 hijacking of the Italian cruise liner Achille Lauro in the eastern Mediterranean Sea and brutally murdered a wheelchair-bound American citizen, Leon Klinghoffer.

Brooks, said Abu Abbas’ role in terrorism and his links to other terrorist organizations are clear. "Perhaps what’s more important: He was found in Baghdad," he said. "We’ve said for a long time that Baghdad and Iraq, and the regime that no longer exists, have harbored terrorists, have provided a safe haven for terrorists and in some cases have facilitated the operations of terrorists."

With significant progress against terror being made in the dismantling of Saddam’s terrorist regime in Iraq, U.S. Secretary of State Powell thanked PM Jose Maria Aznar and Foreign Minister Ana Palacio for "the strong support that Spain has provided to the coalition that liberated Iraq" "..the people are free.. we have gotten rid of a regime that was terrorizing its own people, that was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction" said Powell.

Hussein’s victims are being exhumed and their remains returned to their families. In the south, the terror Hussein inflicted upon the Shia population is coming to light. "This was a terrible regime," Powell said. "This was a regime that was deserving of the justice that has been meted out."

Now, Powell said, Spain and many other countries are offering valuable support as "we all come together, not to fight any longer, but to heal, to rebuild a nation, to help people who are in need – in need not as a result of this conflict, but in need as a result of 20-plus years of dictatorship."

The secretary noted that in Iraq coalition forces removed a dictator. "And with each passing day we can see what that dictatorship had done to the Iraqi people and to the infrastructure of the Iraqi nation," he said.

Foreign Minister Ana Palacio noted Spain has already appointed a "high-level commissioner" to coordinate reconstruction efforts and is sending "four high-level civil servants" to Iraq to integrate different areas of support.


Powell Interview With Spanish Television, TVE

Secretary Colin L. Powell
Madrid, Spain
May 1, 2003
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State Powell, in your tour of different capitals, why Madrid? What is the frame of your conversations with Mr. Aznar and Ms. Palacio?

SECRETATY POWELL: Well, I was anxious to visit Madrid to express my appreciation directly to President Aznar and to Minister Palacio for the strong support that Spain has provided to the coalition that liberated Iraq. And frankly, it’s to bring a message to the Spanish people that they should be very proud of the stand that their government has taken. I know there was a great deal of concern and there was a great deal of popular opposition, but look what we’ve achieved: their dictator is gone, the people are free, people are now being fed, humanitarian supplies are flowing into the country, the electrical system is being fixed, and the Iraqi people are already becoming part of the process, the political process to determine how they will be governed in the future. So we have given a hopeful future for the people of Iraq as a result of the coalition effort, and we have gotten rid of a regime that was terrorizing its own people, that was developing Weapons of Mass Destruction, and I wanted to express my appreciation to President Aznar. Of course, President Aznar is coming to Washington next week to see his good friend President George Bush, and it was an opportunity to review our bilateral agenda before then.

QUESTION: In the future, what kind of cooperation do you expect from Spain in Iraq? Do you expect humanitarian, economic aid?

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes, from my discussions with Foreign Minister Palacio, it’s clear that Spain wants to play an active role in the future of Iraq. And we talked about potential military contributions in peacekeeping efforts, and we talked about humanitarian support, financial support, for the coalition’s efforts to help the Iraqi people. And of course, Spain is a member of the Security Council, a very important member of the Security Council, so it was an opportunity for us also to discuss the way forward in the Security Council to help the people of Iraq.

QUESTION: What do you see as the reason there are people refusing, this past week in Fallujah, for instance, cooperation with the American soldiers? Do you think the population will escalate this kind of provocation?

SECRETARY POWELL. I don’t know if it will escalate, and frankly, most of the country elsewhere is pretty stable. There are instances here and there. In Fallujah, we’ve had three days of demonstrations, and we need to make sure that we have enough presence there to control the situation, and our commanders are now working to find out the sources of the grievances that people have, and hopefully the situation will calm down in the near future. One should not be surprised that, after an operation such as we’ve just had, Operation Iraqi Freedom, there will be a period of continuing hostilities, not like having a war, but there will still be a lack of security in certain places. And people for the first time are free to demonstrate, and sometimes demonstrations get out of control. We’ll continue to convey to the Iraqi people that we are there to help them—we are not there to occupy the country. We will only stay long enough to make sure that they have in place a representative form of government, and that the situation is stable, and then let the Iraqi people be in charge of their own future, their own destiny.

QUESTION: Talking about the future of Iraq—will it be possible to build a democratic system—they’ve never had a democratic system. They have lived under British rule, under a monarchy, and under Saddam. Will it be hard to build one?

SECRETARY POWELL: It will be a challenging, but it is now possible. If you look at what has been going on in the Northern part of Iraq, where the Kurds have been for the last 10 years free of rule from Saddam Hussein, they have put in place a system of government that is more representative, certainly, than the rest of Iraq. So there is no reason that the Iraqi people can’t have a democracy of the kind that you and I would recognize, not identical to Spanish democracy or American democracy, but there is nothing inconsistent between being a Muslim country, and also a democracy, a representative form of government—even though it’s a new experience for them. It’s a new experience for many countries in the world, I mean you look at the countries behind the Iron Curtain that are now free and they have put together democracies after decades of being pressured by dictators, in Moscow and in their own capitals. So we should not immediately assume the Iraqi people have never had it before, therefore they don’t know how to do it now. We’ll help them, and we’re encouraged. The first two meetings that we have held with political leaders, they’ve come, they’ve sat, they’ve argued, they’ve debated with each other, they have agreed, they’ve disagreed, they’ve come out with a statement of principles—this is democracy by definition.

QUESTION: You are going to be in the Middle East later this month. Do you think it is possible to agree with these proposals, with the road map? Is it the same old process with a new name?

SECRETARY POWELL: There is a significant difference now, and that is that the Palestinian Authority has begun to transform itself. A new Finance Minister came in some months ago-has grabbed hold of Palestinian finances, and we now have confidence that their finances are being dealt with in a transparent, uncorrupt way. That was an encouraging element of transformation. And now we have a new Prime Minister, Mr. Abu Mazen, and he has independent authority, not just authority from Arafat—he has been empowered by the Palestinian legislature. And he has already come out, immediately, the first day, condemned violence, and said we must stop this, we must end the terror. Mr. Arafat, in our judgment, is a failed leader. He led the Palestinian people for all those years, but didn’t lead them. He did not get them a state, he did not get them peace, he just led them from one intifada to the next. The United States felt strongly, and Pres. Bush gave a speech last June, that said we must help transform the leadership of the Palestinian authority. We are now seeing that transformed leadership come forward. Mr. Fayyad, the Finance Minister, and now with the new Prime Minister, and Muhammad Dahlan , as Minister of State for Security Issues. And we hope that this puts this new face on the Palestinian Authority—the Israeli side will find a partner for peace and they can begin working with each other. But it’s a bit much to expect that the road map goes down one day, and the next day everything is fine—there are no more bombings, there are no more actions on the part of the Israelis. Remember, there are people, there are groups in the Palestinian Authority who don’t want to see progress, they don’t want to see a road map working. So as soon as progress starts they will do everything they can to stop it. We must not let them stop it, we must not let them lose this last chance that the Palestinian people have for statehood.

QUESTION: Is it possible to expect an official investigation from Washington on the case of the Spanish cameraman Jose Couso?

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, we are continuing to look into it. Commander General Franks has launched an inquiry to find out what else we can find out about it, what more information might be available. I don’t know if we’ll learn any more, other than that it was a tragic incident, an accident of war. We knew that hotel was full of journalists and others, and that’s why we’ve never targeted it. It was never on our target list to be struck by aircraft. But what happened on that day was, it wasn’t being attacked by aircraft, there was a battle on the ground taking place around the hotel, and our troops were being fired at. And they have to protect themselves, they have to defend themselves, and more than that, they have to go after the enemy that’s shooting at them. It was a battle zone, and unfortunately in the course of that battle, our troops took actions which resulted in the death of several people, including this gentleman, and I extend my condolences once again to his family, and extended my condolences to Minister Palacio. But it truly was an accident that happened in the course of war. Thirteen journalists were killed in the course of this conflict. Not one did we want to see killed or was targeted. Some were killed by Iraqi action, some were killed as a result of friendly fire, all regrettably. We tried to warn everybody who was in the theatre, that it is dangerous to be in the middle of a battleground, and I very much regret the loss of this life.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary of State, thank you very much for this time.