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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL

Secretary Powell Testifies Before House International Relations Committee

Aired February 11, 2004 - 12:37   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN ANCHOR: Let's go to Capitol Hill right now. The secretary of state, Colin Powell, is testifying before the House International Relations Committee. The subject right now, Iraq. Let's listen in briefly.
COLIN POWELL, SECRETARY OF STATE: British intelligence and intelligence agencies of other nations, made it clear that the correct answer was, yes, he had such weapons, he had such stockpiles.

There was no doubt in my mind. A year and a few days ago, when I was representing my country before the United Nations to make the case, I spent days out with the best of our analysts, with Director Tenet, with Deputy Director McLaughlin, out at the CIA, going over the case, making sure that everything I was going to say to the entire world, that could be challenged immediately, everything I said was supported by multisource intelligence that would back it up. That information was there. There wasn't a word that was in that presentation that didn't represent the consensus view of the intelligence community.

There might have been objections on a point or another by one or other or more intelligence agencies. But overall, the director of Central Intelligence, who has the responsibility to break ties and make an informed judgment when there is a disagreement, every word in that presentation was supported by him, by his analysts. And I took it with great confidence into the United Nations.

It was also the same information that was in the National Intelligence Estimate that was provided in the months before -- I think it was November of the year before, 2000 -- to members of Congress, and was the basis for the resolution that was correctly, rightfully passed by the Congress, supporting the president and his actions.

Now, we subsequently have learned, though, stockpiles have not yet been found. The work continues. The Iraqi Survey Group will continue its work under Mr. Duelfer.

Dr. Kay has made a number of statements, and he has presented his impressions and his findings to the world through committee appearances, meeting with the president and his public appearances, and he says he doesn't think the stockpiles are there.

He has also said that there was no question about intent, no question about capability, no question about infrastructure, and no question in his mind that Saddam Hussein was in material breach of his obligations as contained in 12 years of U.N. resolutions.

And there was no question in Dr. Kay's mind, just as there was no question in my mind or any of the other president's advisers -- or certainly in the president's advisers -- that this was something that had to be dealt with, was dealt with.

And as Dr. Kay said, it was the right thing to do because this country, under that leader, was a greater threat than anyone might have imagined.

And so the question of stockpiles, yet to be determined as the work of the ISG continues.

But the question of whether the president had the right basis of information upon which to take the decisions that he took, there's no question about this. He had the right basis.

If any of those elements in the equation had changed, if Saddam Hussein had demonstrated, "I have no intention, I've changed my colors" -- which was most unlikely -- but he was given that opportunity in the U.N. Resolution 1441. "Give us an honest declaration, tell us the truth," and the U.N. would have responded in a different way. We might have responded in a different way. But he did not do that.

And it is absolutely clear to me that the president made the right decision. And it is clear also to those nations that joined us in the coalition that succeeded in putting this regime into the history books.

We also saw that as a result of our action we have a dictator that will no longer be filling mass graves, a dictator who will no longer be using the money that has been given to him through the natural resources of his country, oil, to build weapons of mass destruction or to suppress one part of the population or another.

And now we are faced with a situation where we are working hard with the new leadership of Iraq to put in place a government that will be representative of the people. We're looking forward to transferring sovereignty at the end of June if all goes well, and we're pressing to that end.

We have a difficult security problem -- as you can see, manifested again today with a terrible explosion, explosion done by terrorists and other old elements of the regime who don't recognize that their day is over, their day is gone.

Their day will ultimately be totally gone as the security forces of Iraq gain in strength and ability and are able to defend their people from this kind of attack.

These attacks are directed more against Iraq and Iraq's bright future than they are against U.S. forces. And they will be defeated and we will succeed.

And I believe that as we move forward, we will have more and more nations join us. We're working with the United Nations now to give it a vital role to play. We are working with our European colleagues who had differences of view about this year ago, who are now meeting with us and talking about what NATO might be able to do, or other countries might be able to do as we move forward.

So we should be proud of what we have done as a nation to free the people of Iraq and give them hope for a better future. And we should not allow debates over one part of this complex equation that I mention distract us from the reality that we did the right thing and we should be proud.

BLITZER: All right. So the secretary of state, Colin Powell, making a very robust defense of U.S. policy to launch the war against Saddam Hussein, insisting the intelligence was as good as he could get. Defending the president's decision to go to war, and also defending the postwar policy as well. We'll continue to monitor Colin Powell's testimony before the House International Relations Committee and bring you any additional news if it becomes available.

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