WHISTLER, B.C. -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell yesterday firmly rejected claims, often heard on both sides of the border, that Canada is a haven for terrorists.
"I would never have said that," Mr. Powell declared in an exclusive Canadian interview with CTV News and The Globe and Mail.
"There is no doubt that there are terrorists in Canada," he said.
"There are terrorists in the United States. We discovered that on 9/11. None of us is free from that scourge. No one is immune."
But if there are terrorists in Canada, Mr. Powell said they would be brought to justice.
"The one thing that I am sure of is that Canadian authorities at every level and every ministry are doing everything they can to find them and bring them to justice," he said.
Mr. Powell, in this mountain resort to attend the meeting of foreign ministers from Group of Eight counties, added, however, that both countries still need to do a better job determining exactly who is going into the United States through Canada.
On another Canadian matter, however, Mr. Powell seemed to serve up a bit of criticism. Speaking of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien's desire to focus this month's G8 leaders summit in Kananaskis, Alta., on a huge aid program to Africa, he said the United States is certainly willing to do its part to help improve the economies and social structures of beleaguered African countries.
"I am pleased that the Prime Minister is focusing on those needs, but we will also make the case that there are other nations in the world that have a need for the kinds of funds we are about to make available," he said. "There are other areas of the world that have great needs as well."
During the interview, Mr. Powell spent considerable time discussing the strife-torn Middle East, and deflected criticism that the United States is turning its back on Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.
Earlier this week, after a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, U.S. President George W. Bush seemed to go out of his way to question Mr. Arafat's continued usefulness in the peace process.
But Mr. Powell said Mr. Arafat remains the leader of the Palestinian people, like it or not. Still, he said, the United States will continue to press Mr. Arafat to do more to curb terrorist attacks on Israelis and reform the Palestinian Authority.
He said he is beginning to hear criticism, even from Palestinians, that they are getting nowhere under Mr. Arafat. "The strategy their leaders have been following in recent months and over the years hasn't produced anything for them except deprivation and more futility in their lives. So they are looking for change, too," Mr. Powell said.
"Yasser Arafat is there. We have been disappointed by his performance over the years, and we are going to work with him, since he is the leader of the Palestinian people, but we are going to work with other Palestinian leaders as well."
Mr. Powell said Mr. Bush remains committed to the vision of a viable state for the Palestinians and the need for an international peace conference.
He denied suggestions that many European nations and the United States are seriously divided over the best course of action to resolve the Middle East crisis.
"All of us are committed to the security of Israel, but we are also committed to find a way to create a state for the Palestinian people."
He said Mr. Bush will be making a major statement on the Middle East crisis "in the very near future".
Mr. Powell also rejected oft-heard charges that the United States, under Mr. Bush, acts too unilaterally on the world stage, referring to U.S. refusals to participate in the Kyoto accord, a world court and an international war-crimes tribunal.
There is nothing wrong with disagreeing with "friends" over matters of principle, Mr. Powell said, and sometimes, the United States is proven right.
He recalled "scathing criticism" from Canada and other countries when the United States cancelled the Anti-Ballistic Missile treaty with Russia. "You said it was the wrong thing to do. It would lead to an arms race. Well, today, June 13, the ABM [treaty] went out of existence, and there is no arms race," Mr. Powell said.
Before the interview began, Mr. Powell said he took time out to visit the Whistler firehall. Some of the firefighters there had visited New York and ground zero in December, he recounted, and they invited him over for iced tea. "They are wonderful young men."
The interview with Mr. Powell can be seen this morning on CTV's Canada AM with Lisa LaFlamme.
Colin Powell on:
"Canada is a marvellous gateway into the United States and we treasure that. We are a nation of immigrants, a nation that welcomes people who come to our shores to resettle in the United States, to go to school, to get health care, to visit our country and one of the ways to get there is through Canada. At the same time, we, in light of 9/11, have to do a better job of knowing who is coming and do we know enough about them.
"Have we checked them to know that they are behaving properly in our country? And once in our country, do we know when it is time for them to leave our country or for other reasons it is time for them to go?
"So working with Canada, we are trying to do a better job of remaining an open society but also a society that also protects itself and defends itself. The first obligation of any government is to protect its citizens; Canada has the same challenge.
"So I'm very pleased by the degree of collaboration that has taken place between [Deputy Prime] Minister [John] Manley and Governor Tom Ridge working on homeland-security issues and with the State Department and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working on those areas that have been in their purview.
"Canada understands this as well. They understand that they are not only protecting us but they are protecting Canada and Canadian citizens, and I am very pleased with the level of co-operation."
Africa has great needs and I am pleased that [Prime Minister Jean Chrétien] is focusing on those needs, but we will also make the case that there are other nations in the world that have a need for the kinds of funds we are about to make available. There are other areas of the world that have great needs as well.
"You can be sure that we are more than willing to participate in an extended dialogue on Africa with Mr. Chrétien, but we'll also make the case that there are other nations in the world that have a need for the funds that we are about to make available."
"People should be nervous about the fact that there is a country such as Iraq, with all that wealth available to it through oil, that is using that wealth to develop chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons in order to threaten innocent people throughout the Persian Gulf region, and, in due course, perhaps even threaten us here, this far away.
"That capability might well fall into the hands of terrorists, so while people focus on 'will the United States take action or not?' and that causes them to be agitated, they should be more agitated about what's going on in Iraq and the nature of that regime."
The Middle East
"All of us are committed to the security of Israel, but we all are also committed to find a way to create a state for the Palestinian people. Because only when two peoples have their own state, living side by side in peace with each other, will we be able to go forward to find peace in the region.
"There has tended to some feeling within the European Community more toward the Palestinian cause than you might find in American constituencies, but it wasn't a source of disagreement at this conference."
"We're very interested in reforming and transforming Palestinian institutions so that they would be worthy of a state if we were able to create a state for them. We need responsibility, accountability; we need transparency, and what is interesting right now is you hear Palestinians saying the same thing, that the strategy that their leaders have been following in recent months and over the years hasn't produced anything for them except more deprivation and more futility in their lives. So they're looking for change, too.
"I hope they can capture their desire for change with the outside world's belief that change is necessary, and move the Palestinians along in that direction. We hope that Chairman Arafat will respond to this, but we have to work with other Palestinian leaders as well."
"How can [Mr. Arafat] be ignored? If you ignore him and say he isn't there, and the Palestinian people look to him as their leader, then you do nothing. You just are standing there, not doing anything, and I don't think we can afford that. We have to find a way forward."
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