Secretary of State Colin Powell
Irish Foreign Minister Brian Cowen
Washington, D.C.
September 26, 2001

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good morning, ladies and gentlemen. It has been my pleasure today to host my Irish colleague, Foreign Minister Cowen. We just had a very productive discussion and, in that discussion, I had the opportunity to thank the Minister and his Prime Minister and the Irish people for the outpouring of support that we received as a result of the tragedy on the 11th of September.

It meant a great deal to us to be joined by our Irish brothers and sisters in recognizing the enormity of this tragedy. I especially want to thank the Irish people for the day of mourning that they held on the 14th of September, the Friday after the 11th of September. It showed a remarkable demonstration of the love that exists between our two peoples and the solidarity that exists between our two nations.

I also extended my regrets and condolences to the Minister for the loss of his citizens at the World Trade Center, remembering once again that it is a World Trade Center that was destroyed by these terrorists. I also made sure the Minister understood that the President has a commitment to go after terrorism and to go after these particular terrorists. It is a commitment that will be unwavering and will be pursued.

I thanked the Minister as well for providing over-flight assistance to the United States' efforts and that is deeply appreciative and a sign of the commitment that they have made. As the Minister said to me, we have to go beyond just sentiment to action. That is particularly appropriate, since Ireland will be in the Chair of the Security Council beginning on the 1st of October, and we look forward to working with the Chair as we pursue new resolutions that will assist us in this struggle against terrorism.

Before introducing the Minister, I just might say a word about the Middle East situation. I spoke this morning to Prime Minister Sharon, to Foreign Minister Peres and to Chairman Yasser Arafat to get their perspective of the meetings that were held this morning between Foreign Minister Peres and Chairman Arafat. I am pleased that the meeting took place, I am pleased that some progress has been achieved and that more progress is expected as security meetings begin on Friday.

So we are at the beginning of a process that I hope will lead quickly into the Tenet work plan and into the Mitchell process. This is a hopeful sign and I hope that we can move rapidly through this process so that we can begin to see confidence-building activities in the region, we can see a cease-fire that really takes hold, we can improve the lives of the Palestinian people by opening things up again, and ultimately get back to discussions that will lead to resolution of the outstanding political issues.

And now, it is my pleasure to introduce my colleague, Foreign Minister Cowen.

FOREIGN MINISTER COWEN: Thank you, Secretary of State. My I first of all thank the Secretary of State for meeting me and my delegation this morning, as we prepare to take over Chairmanship of the Security Council on Monday next. I intimated to the Secretary of State the profound sorrow and regret of the Irish people at what had happened on September 11th and to assure him of our solidarity and support.

May I also say that we have been greatly impressed by the resolve, obviously, of the United States Government and its people, but also its restraint, its methodical efforts at building an international coalition behind efforts to deal with this phenomenon of international terrorism, which must be dealt with comprehensively in all respects and in a multifaceted way. And to say to him that, from our perspective, in terms of our bilateral relations, as members of the European Union and now taking on Chairmanship of the Security Council of the United Nations, that we will play our part to ensure that the resolutions of the United Nations are respected and that they are implemented, and that we will work with him and work with other members of the Security Council to make sure that our Chairmanship is a success in that respect and a constructive contribution to dealing with the phenomenon of terrorism, as we have seen it portrayed in recent days.

Thank you.

QUESTION: There is great concern in Ireland that everything that happens from now on should be specifically mandated by the United Nations. Can I ask you, Secretary, do you believe that you have a mandate from the UN for action in principle and in terms of the scope, or will you be going back to the UN for a further mandate?

SECRETARY POWELL: As you know, we have been in touch with many organizations, the United Nations, NATO, the Organization of Islamic Conferences, the Organization of American States. So many international organizations have come together to provide support and to give us opportunities to move forward in this campaign. The campaign will have a political component to it, a diplomatic component, financial, intelligence sharing, and there may also be a military component to the campaign.

At the moment, notwithstanding all of the coalition building we have been doing, President Bush retains the authority to take whatever actions he believes are appropriate in accordance with the needs for self-defense of the United States and of the American people.

We will be going to the UN for additional expressions of support through UN resolutions but, at the moment, should the President decide that there are more actions he has to take, he will make a judgment as to whether he needs UN authority or whether he can just act on the authority inherent in the right of self defense and consistent with our own laws and regulations and constitutional powers.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the Taliban has today told Afghan people to return home, on grounds that the United States will not attack, not having evidence against bin Laden. What's your take on that?

SECRETARY POWELL: I am not going to comment on a Taliban statement. I haven't heard the statement, and so I think I probably ought to look at it more carefully before I make a comment on it.

Thank you very much.