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Powell Claims "Bit of Success"

Agence France Presse
May 14, 2001

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Monday he believed he was having some success in pushing for changes to UN sanctions on Iraq but conceded that escalating Middle East violence was hurting his efforts. He also said Washington was still reviewing its own policy toward Baghdad, including its oft-stated desire to see Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein replaced.

Powell said the continuing clashes between Israel and the Palestinians were not making his job of selling sanctions changes to Baghdad's Arab neighbors any easier. Support from these countries will critical if the revisions are to work. "It's made it much more difficult," Powell said in an interview with CNN. "There is a great deal of concern in the region about what's happening between the Palestinians and the Israelis."

"There's no doubt that they do see a connection between the two and that's why we are trying to solve the whole region's problems in a comprehensive way," he said. "You can't separate them out." But, Powell added that despite the problems caused by the Israeli-Palestinian clashes, he had not stopped his push on Iraq.

The secretary is keen to loosen restrictions on commercial products to Iraq while strengthening those on military equipment in an effort to quell growing criticism of the sanctions regime. "We are reviewing those arms control systems to make sure that they really are directed at the weapons and not at civilian goods or things that the people of Iraq should have in order to protect their health," Powell said.

"I'm having a bit of success, I think, with members of the United Nations and with nations in the region in restructuring those arms control systems ... so that the Iraqi regime cannot blame the United States for hurting Iraqi civilians."

On regime change in Baghdad and support for the Iraqi opposition, Powell said US officials continued to debate the merits of funding the Iraqi National Congress (INC). "The Iraqi National Congress has support from the United States government and they are undertaking some useful activities but no judgment has been made as to how much more activity they might take," he said.

The INC has received limited assistance from Washington -- principally to collect and publicize information about alleged atrocities committed by Saddam Hussein's regime -- but has yet to convince the the United States it is effective or efficient enough to deserve military equipment or training.

However, Powell made clear that the United States had not backed down on its desire to see Saddam ousted. "I don't think any sensible person would not believe that the Iraqi people will be better off with a different regime," he said.

"We're looking at regime change, how can we help the Iraqi people acquire a better system of government and leaders more committed to peace and the betterment of their people, rather than developing weapons of mass destruction."

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