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Powell Breaks Off Talks with OAS; Returns to Washington - 2001-09-11

Secretary of State Colin Powell broke off his first South American mission since taking office to return home for crisis meetings on the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. He told foreign ministers of the Organization of American States in Lima that democracy will triumph over terrorism.

Mr. Powell was in Peru to join fellow OAS foreign ministers in ratifying a charter declaring democracy a fundamental right for all people in the hemisphere. He first learned of the terrorist acts when an aide passed him a note during a morning bilateral meeting with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo.

The Secretary decided on the spot cancel the rest of his trip, including a scheduled stop in Colombia.

But he stayed in Lima long enough to see the charter ratified by acclamation, and to assure his colleagues in a speech to the OAS plenary that terrorism will not shake American democracy. He said, "They can destroy buildings, they can kill people and we will be saddened by this tragedy. But they will never be allowed to kill the spirit of democracy. They cannot destroy our society, they cannot destroy our belief in the democratic way. You can sure that America will deal with this tragedy in a way that brings those responsible to justice. You can be sure that as terrible a day that this is for us, we will get through it because we are a strong nation - a nation that believes in itself."

The OAS assembly also approved a special resolution of solidarity with the United States.

Briefing reporters enroute home, Mr. Powell said cables had been sent to all U.S. embassies and missions overseas calling for heightened security precautions.

He said that on return to Washington, he would begin a round of consultations with world leaders on what he termed, "cowardly acts against innocents." But his first stop was a meeting of the White House National Security Council.