As the Bush Administration seeks a UN resolution authorizing force against Iraq, it is asking for the support of three African countries. Angola, Cameroon and Guinea are current members of the Security Council. Secretary of State Colin Powell is leading the administration’s diplomatic efforts.
At the recent Franco-African Summit in Paris, all 52 African delegations attending the meeting agreed that UN weapons inspectors should be given more time.
Secretary of State Powell disagrees, saying Iraq has had more than enough time to comply with UN resolutions.
He says, "Well, we’ve given Iraq a great deal of time to disarm. We’ve given them since 1991 and the simple fact is they have not disarmed."
Secretary Powell says, “The time is coming to simply demand that Iraq comply now or face consequences.”
He says, "Those consequences would include the possibility of military action to disarm Iraq – and frankly, put in place a regime that will be more responsible to the people of the country – that will stop the human rights abuses that take place in Iraq – will eliminate the weapons of mass destruction – and will make the region more peaceful."
The United States is Angola’s biggest trading partner and aid donor. While both Cameroon and Guinea have strong ties to France, which is currently opposed to a war with Iraq.
Mr. Powell says the United States has not offered any additional aid to Angola, Cameroon and Guinea to win their support.
"We have not conditioned any aid that we might be given them on how they might vote," he says. "We obviously hope that they will find when it comes time to vote that our position is persuasive. But these are free, independent nations that are capable of making their own judgment after examining all the facts. Do we present strong arguments to them, yes."
And to Africa’s large Muslim population, Mr. Powell reiterated that U-S policy on Iraq and its war on terrorism are not an attack against Islam.
Secretary Powell says, "This is not anti-Muslim. We did not go looking for trouble. Trouble came and found us when we were attacked on 9/11. It is not anti-Muslim. It is anti-terrorism and anti those regimes that develop weapons of mass destruction that they have used against their own people, fellow Muslims. We respect the Muslim faith and would do nothing to dishonor Islam in any way.”
The Security Council vote on Iraq may come the week of March 10th.
To download or listen to the complete interview with Colin Powell, click the above links.