Secretary of State Colin Powell says he thinks the congressional resolution authorizing President Bush to use military force against Iraq will boost his efforts to get new U.N. Security Council resolution aimed at forcing Saddam Hussein to disarm. Mr. Powell also confirmed in an interview that the administration is examining the issue of a military government for Iraq if U.S. troops occupied the country.
Mr. Powell says the Congressional resolution, given final approval in the Senate early Friday, shows the "unity of purpose" of the United States in the standoff with Iraq, and said it will help him convey to his colleagues on the Security Council that it is time for them to show the same kind of unity.
In a U.S. public radio interview, Mr. Powell said the Bush administration has not gone to the U.N. looking for a reason to go to war, but rather, he said, looking for a way to disarm what he termed "this very dangerous regime."
The secretary of state reaffirmed U.S. support for a single council resolution both demanding that Iraq give up its weapons of mass destruction, and threatening it with the use of force if it doesn't comply.
He said while Iraqi compliance is unlikely in any case, he is sure Saddam Hussein will not comply unless he believes it is likely he will be forced to. That is why, Mr. Powell said, that it is so important for the international community to "come together" and to "not show weakness at this time."
In the interview, Mr. Powell confirmed the administration is doing "contingency planning" for a U.S.-led military government in Iraq in case American forces went into the country to topple Saddam Hussein.
He said it is obvious that in the aftermath of such an invasion, there would have to be "some presence" of U.S. forces in Iraq, until what he termed "a better system" of governance by Iraqis can be established.
Citing historical precedents, Mr. Powell said U.S. forces have always tried to exit quickly once peace is restored in a country and a stable system of government is in place.
"It is never our intention," Mr. Powell said, "to go and stay in a place and impose our will by the presence of military force."
The comments follow a New York Times report Friday that the White House was developing a plan for a U.S.-led military government of Iraq based on the post-World War II US occupation of Japan.
It said the plan called for war-crimes trials of Iraqi leaders, and a transition to an elected civilian government in Baghdad that could take months or even years.
Mr. Powell said nothing had been decided upon, and that the Times account reflected only one possible model, a point also made by State Department spokesman Richard Boucher who said the United States main interests are the political stability and the unity of Iraq as events unfold:
"All I can tell you at this point is that you can't settle on a particular plan because one can't say exactly how events are going to turn out," Mr. Boucher explained. "But I think the commitment of the United States towards a stable Iraq that can provide for its own people is there. And we will work with Iraqis inside and outside in the future to help achieve that."
The Bush administration, in line with its stated policy objective of "regime change" in Baghdad, has convened unity meetings of Iraqi opposition groups. And since last April, it has held a series of seminars with Iraqi expatriates on practical issues involved in a governmental transition, including maintaining essential services, and establishing democratic rule.
The most recent such meeting, on a transitional justice system in Iraq, was held in Italy two weeks ago.