Secretary of State Colin Powell says the United States has no plans to expand its current military operations beyond Afghanistan. Mr. Powell made the statement during an interview with Egyptian television. The interview was conducted in English and then voiced over in Arabic.
Colin Powell's message to Egyptians appeared meant to assure them of the limited range of the U.S.-led military campaign. He said that while the United States is conducting a war against all forms of terrorism, the current targets of that war are all in Afghanistan: the country's Taleban rulers and Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida terrorist network.
The secretary of state said the United States is concerned about Iraq's attempts to develop nuclear weapons, but it has no plans to expand its military effort into Iraq. "In the first phase, our activity will focus on al-Qaida and the Taleban and Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and that is really where we have to focus on," said Mr. Powell. "Obviously, we have always been concerned with Iraq as a nation that has tried to develop weapons of mass destruction to use, not against America, but to use against its own citizens and so we have to be concerned about that. And we have been pursuing that through the United Nations efforts, and our first phase, right now, is in Afghanistan, and there are no plans, at the moment, to undertake any other military action."
Mr. Powell told his Egyptian interviewer there is no evidence linking Iraq to the September 11 attacks in the United States or the recent anthrax cases in the United States.
When asked whether the United States would consider halting the military campaign during Ramadan, the Muslim holy month, the secretary acknowledged Muslim sensitivities on this issue, but said the campaign would continue. Ramadan begins next week.
The secretary also said he does not expect the Afghan winter to stop military operations in the country, although he added that the weather would force modifications.
Mr. Powell's interview received a lot of attention in Egypt, most of it favorable.
Mohamed Sayed Sa'id is the deputy director of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. For him, it is extremely important for Egyptians to hear what U.S. officials have to say about issues that affect them.
"You need to really articulate a new discourse, a new understanding, a new way of talking to people, of addressing people everywhere and that is very important when it comes through top-level speeches and ideas," said Mr. Sa'id. "I think communication is highly needed, but communication involves much more than just talking. It involves also policies and actions."
But Mr. Sa'id added that, in addition to speaking directly to the people of the Middle East, U.S. leaders also need to show, through their policies and their actions, their concern for all the people of the Middle East.
When Mr. Powell was asked during the interview about Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said the Palestinian Intifada will "not solve the frustration" of Palestinians. He said there needs to be an elimination of violence so that both sides can start talking to one another and move forward.