Joint Press Conference with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and US Secretary of State Colin Powell

Washington DC

SEC. POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. I just had a good conversation with my friend and colleague, Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom.

We discussed U.S.-Israeli relations, of course, and I once again expressed the United States’ support for the disengagement plan and how we have tried to help through our work with the Quartet and discussing this plan with our European Union colleagues as well as our friends in the Arab world.

The president is committed to supporting Prime Minister Sharon in this effort with the understanding and the acknowledgment that it will involve the West Bank and will all be consistent with the road map and the basis for peace that we all are quite familiar with. And the minister and I discussed progress and the progress that’s also being made in conversations with the Egyptians with respect to security, and the World Bank with respect to reconstruction activities.

We also had a good discussion of the situation in Iraq, and I briefed the minister on my recent trip to Sudan.

And we also discussed the general situation in the region, the need especially for the Palestinians to get on with the business of consolidating their security organization, giving authority to a prime minister to run those security organizations in an effective way which will bring an end to terror attacks against Israel, which will get us down the path of the road map to that point that all of us hope for, and that is when we can have a Palestinian state that will be created and will live in peace with the state of Israel.

Mr. Minister, it’s a great pleasure to have you here, and I invite you to say a word or two.

MIN. SHALOM: Thank you very much, Mr. Secretary. I’ve just concluded a very good meeting with my friend and colleague Secretary Powell.

We discussed a range of issues. We discussed a way to make progress in the peace process in our region. I believe that it’s very important that every process in the Middle East should be led by the Americans. And I’ve said it very clear that we believe that the Americans are more influential in our region, and they have the key to make both parties to go together and to move toward a more positive attitude toward the peace process.

I believe that it’s very important that the Palestinians will start to implement their commitments according to the road map, and it means to put an end to terrorism and violence. In the same time, while they are not doing it, we should continue to build our security fence that, since we have started to build it, brought a huge decline in the number of terrorist attacks. I showed the secretary the number of attacks that we suffered from in 2002 and how many attacks we had during 2004. We lost 1,000 casualties in the last three and a half years. And since we have built this fence, it gives us the opportunity to cancel 80 roadblocks within the territories. That gives more freedom to the Palestinians. While they don’t have free access to the Israeli state in order to carry out attacks against us, it gives us the possibility to cancel more roadblocks in the future.

We don’t want the Palestinians to make a big party next week after the ICJ, the International Court of Justice, will publish their advisory opinion. And of course we ask our friends the Americans — like I was talking to other countries that oppose the process that took place in the International Court of Justice in The Hague not to give the Palestinians the opportunity to try to arrange a big party next week in the United Nations.

We are talking about the ways to try to stop the efforts of the Iranians to continue to develop their nuclear program. And of course it’s very important that the international community will be united in its efforts to put an end to those offers that are made by the Iranians.

I believe that the time has come for most of the Arab countries to have a more positive attitude toward Israel after the disengagement plan was decided in the Israeli Cabinet. And of course I believe that the United States, with the Quartet, can play a key role in order to push the Arab countries to a better understanding with Israel; to push the Palestinians to implement the reforms in order to unify their security forces. I believe that we should tell the Palestinians, and the international community should tell the Palestinians that the assistance that will be given should be conditioned in their efforts to put an end to the terrorism and violence in the region.

I would like to thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your warm hospitality, and to continue to have good discussions and work in the future.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you very much, Mr. Minister.

Q Mr. Secretary, ElBaradei is in Israel pushing the Arab-U.N. effort to open Israel’s suspected atomic program. Concerning Israel’s security problems, how do you feel about Israel maintaining the policy it has all along, which is sort of to keep everything secret and to think of this as a last line of defense?

SEC. POWELL: I have nothing to say about this matter. The Israeli government can speak to it, and I think the prime minister has spoken to it. And I’m sure that Mr. ElBaradei will have good conversations with the Israeli government on the issue.

Q Well then can I get something — just a quick follow. We heard the foreign minister last week, too, when he saw Dr. Rice, at length about Iran is a threat to Europe as well as to Israel. You spoke of maybe action in September at the Security Council. As you hear these reports, and Iran possibly sending people into Iraq, have you sharpened your — have you changed — not sharpened — have you accelerated your concern about Iran’s intentions?

SEC. POWELL: We know Iran’s intentions, and those intentions are to keep a nuclear weapons development program going. We have for three-and-a-half years of this administration been pointing this out to the international community, and I think finally the international community realizes there’s a problem. We’ve had IAEA action recently. We have had the European foreign ministers make trips to Iran to say to the Iranians they have to give up these programs. And they have not achieved success with these trips yet, even though they have received some commitments which have been unfulfilled.

So the United States will continue to press in every way that we can, use all of the diplomatic and other resources at our disposal to make sure the international community stands unified behind the effort to stop Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons development, or worse, acquiring a nuclear weapon.

Q Mr. Secretary, an Israeli question, please? It’s clear that the coalition of the prime minister is very shaky and unstable. Yesterday he didn’t pass the majority vote in the Knesset, in the Israeli parliament. Are you concerned that because of his fragile situation, political situation, the government of Israel might not be able to implement the disengagement plan? And what is your comment for the fact that despite your expectation and the administration’s expectation, Israel has not dismantled many of the illegal outposts in the territories?

SEC. POWELL: On the first point, the prime minister is quite skilled politically. And from everything I have been able to see, he is moving forward on the plan, and I expect that he will be successful with the ups and downs that come from working in a democratic, political system.

With respect to the outposts and other activity related to settlements and access, the minister and I had an open and candid discussion about it. I explained to the minister that we have some disappointment in the rate at which outposts had been removed. And the minister gave me assurances that they are hard at work on that. And we’ll be exchanging more information on the subject.

Q Mr. Secretary, the Senate Intelligence Committee has learned that the CIA talked to family members of Iraqi scientists before the war and was told that the weapons of mass destruction programs had been dismantled. Did the CIA share that information with you before you went to the United Nations?

SEC. POWELL: I don’t think I’m going to comment on this report on the basis of newspaper accounts of the report. The Senate will be releasing the report later this week, and I’m going to wait and see what it says and not comment on one specific report on the report.

Q Well, Mr. Secretary, putting aside the Senate committee, were you told by the CIA that they had talked to family members of scientists and —

SEC. POWELL: I haven’t seen the Senate report. I’ve seen a newspaper account of the Senate report. I’ve seen a newspaper account of the Senate report. And I think it is important for me to see the whole report before I make a judgment on the basis of a single newspaper account of the report.

We worked very closely with the agency during this period. And we’ll just have to see what the report says we were provided or we may not have been provided.

Q Minister Shalom, could you address Barry’s question? What is your reaction to Mr. ElBaradei’s visit to Israel? And is there any reason why Israel should abandon its policy of strategic ambiguity with regard to its possible nuclear programs?

MIN. SHALOM: We are having Dr. ElBaradei today until Thursday. I believe that he will have good meetings with the Israeli prime minister and with other high officials in Israel. I myself will meet him on Thursday in the airport when I’ll be back from the States and he will be back home. We are talking to ElBaradei. It’s not our first meeting. I met him a few months ago in Vienna. We believe that we should cooperate. We are working one with each other.

But the main problem is Iran. Iran is the country that have announced that one missile toward Israel will destroy the Jewish state. So we should be concerned about the Iranians’ efforts to develop nuclear weapon. More than that, they are trying now to develop a new missile that will include Berlin, London and Paris and the southern part of Russia in its range. So if we would have to do something with ElBaradei, is to ask him to continue with his efforts to push the Iranians to put an end to its effort to develop a nuclear weapon.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you.

MIN. SHALOM: I would like maybe to make one more comment about the Israeli question, the Israeli journalist, about the outposts. I have said to my colleague, Secretary Powell, that Israel is committed to remove the unauthorized outposts like it’s mentioned in the road map. While the Palestinians are not doing anything, we would like to implement our commitment. We removed tens of outposts already. There are 28 left. We gave all the lists to the American administration, and we are working together in order to implement our commitment in the near future.

SEC. POWELL: Thank you.