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updated 6/13/2004 11:06:02 AM ET 2004-06-13T15:06:02

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PLEASE CREDIT ANY QUOTES OR EXCERPTS FROM THIS NBC TELEVISION PROGRAM TO "NBC NEWS' MEET THE PRESS."

NBC News

MEET THE PRESS

Guests: Secretary of State Colin Powell;president of the Iraqi interim government Ghazi al-Yawar; Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Moderator/Panelist:  Tim Russert - NBC News

This is a rush transcript provided for the information and convenience of the press. Accuracy is not guaranteed. In case of doubt, please check with:

MEET THE PRESS - NBC NEWS

(202) 885-4598, Sundays: (202) 885-4200

Meet the Press (NBC News) - Sunday, June 13, 2004

MR. RUSSERT:  Our issues this Sunday:  Iraq and Afghanistan, two major trouble spots for America. What can be done?  With us:  the secretary of State, Colin Powell; the president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai; and the new president of Iraq, Ghazi Al-Yawar.  The U.S., Afghanistan and Iraq, only on MEET THE PRESS.

And in our MEET THE PRESS Minute, George Herbert Walker Bush turned 80 yesterday.  In his career, he appeared on MEET THE PRESS 10 times; the first, March 21, 1971.

And with us now is the secretary of state, Colin Powell.

Mr. Secretary, welcome back.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Thank you, Tim.  Good morning.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me start with Saudi Arabia.  Al-Qaeda Web site has posted this picture.  They say it is Paul Johnson, and there's his business card. Mr. Johnson's son has confirmed that his dad has been kidnapped in Saudi Arabia.  The other night Kenneth Scroggs was killed.  The British have authorized their staff to leave.  Your department, the State Department, has suggested Americans not travel to Saudi Arabia.  Is their Saudi kingdom unraveling?

SEC'Y POWELL:  It's not unraveling, but it's certainly a dangerous situation right now.  Terrorists are going after the Saudi leadership.  They're trying to make the country unstable and I know that the Saudis are treating it with utmost seriousness and they're counterattacking.  They've done some rolling up of these terrorist organizations, but clearly, this is a dangerous time for Saudi Arabia and we are working with them and cooperating with them in every way that we can to defeat these terrorists.

MR. RUSSERT:  If they can affect the world's oil market by driving American workers out of Saudi Arabia, what will that do to our economy?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, it would not be a good thing for them to be able to do this, and that's why we have to do everything we can to help the Saudis keep that from happening.  We have to put back a sense of security in the society so that people will not leave.  We don't like the situation we're in right now in Saudi Arabia, and I know that the Saudis see this in the same serious manner that we do and they're going to go after these terrorists, but it's a tough situation.

MR. RUSSERT:  Now that Mr. Johnson has confirmed his dad was kidnapped, can you confirm it?

SEC'Y POWELL:  For Privacy Act reasons, I cannot yet confirm it but I accept what I see on television.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to the situation in Iraq and discussions the president and you have had with leaders of European nations.  This is how Charles Kupchan, who works for the Council on Foreign Relations, put it the other day.  "No WMD, no link to al-Qaeda, to progress on the [Israeli-Palestinian] peace process--the region has been essentially stirred up, not tamed, and al-Qaeda recruitment has picked up.  So [Europeans] generally feel that their assessment of the war going into the conflict was accurate."

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, there's also no Saddam Hussein.  There is no dictatorial regime.  There is a new Iraqi interim government that is about to take over. There is a new U.N. resolution that was approved unanimously that approves the way going forward, and so while we do have challenges ahead--and the principle challenge is one of security, stopping these attacks, stopping this insurgency in Iraq, and once we can get that security situation under control, the combination of our troops, coalition troops and Iraqi forces being built up, then you will see reconstruction take off.  You will see a better life for

the Iraqi people being created.  You will see elections.  You will see a new constitution, and you will see something far better than the regime that is no longer there.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the second-ranking Iraqi official was killed yesterday. The insurgency seems to be picking off the Iraqi leadership.

SEC'Y POWELL:  They are going after these courageous leaders who have stepped forward, but that's not something to give them credit for.  They're murderers and they're trying to murder people who are trying to serve the Iraqi people and they cannot be allowed to succeed.  What kind of world would we have, what kind of region would we have if these kinds of terrorists were allowed to proceed or allowed to succeed and we gave up and said we're not going to do anything about it?  We are going to do something about it.  We're going to continue to keep our coalition troops there, do everything we can

to build up Iraqi forces.  We're going to support the new Iraqi government that is rapidly taking over. Fifteen ministries have already been transferred to full Iraqi control, and the president, that you will be interviewing later, as well as the prime minister will be taking office with their leadership at the end of the month and we will support them.  They must be given everything they need to prevail over these former regime elements and terrorists.

MR. RUSSERT:  Must the Iraqis not take control of their own destiny?  Must they be willing to kill fellow Iraqis if need be to put down the insurgency?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Yes.  And I think they understand that perfectly.  They know that they are being challenged.  They don't want to go back to the past.  We don't want to go back to the past and we're not going to go back to the past. And that's why we're so pleased that the United Nations Security Council spoke clearly about this with a 15-0 resolution.  Even those nations that did not think it was wise for us to go into Iraq last year--France and Germany I will mention--have now come together on this resolution, recognizing that the international community must not fail.  We must not allow terrorists to prevail.

Whatever the disagreements were over the past year, they have to be behind us and we have to come together now to defeat this insurgency and to move forward.  Now, the G8 meeting clearly also reinforced this point.  I'm sure that the NATO summit later this month will also do likewise.  We're not expecting major additional contributions of troops from our NATO allies beyond the 16 nations that are already involved, but there may be other things that NATO can do with respect to police training, with respect to headquarters involvement, and we'll be pursuing this with our NATO colleagues.

MR. RUSSERT:  There was an article in The Financial Times the other day which suggested that failure, in fact, may be an option, and let me show it to you. "Simon Serfaty, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, was recently commissioned by someone in the administration--he does not say who--to write a paper on the effect of failure in Iraq on Europe and trans-Atlantic relations.  He defines failure as an abrupt withdrawal of most U.S. troops while Iraq dissolves into internecine strife."

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, that is not an option for us.  The president's made it clear that we're going to stay and help this new sovereign government.  The international community, with its unanimous vote in the Security Council, has said the same thing.  It is not an option to essentially walk away from this problem and allow these terrorists to prevail, or these former regime elements to take the Iraqi people back into the past.

MR. RUSSERT:  The cost of the war--this was on the Associated Press wire the other day.  "Cheap gas from the war only for Iraqis, not Americans.  While Americans are shelling out record prices for fuel, Iraqis pay 5 cents a gallon for gasoline, a benefit of hundreds of millions of dollar subsidies bankrolled by American taxpayers.  A three-month supply costs American taxpayers more than $500 million, not including the cost of military escorts to fend off attacks."

SEC'Y POWELL:  This is the nature of the economy that we inherited from this regime, a regime that was bankrupting itself by providing these kinds of subsidies for gas, for food, and for other necessities which they control.  It was a way in which they controlled the population.  As the new government takes over and as the economy settles down and it becomes more market-based, you will start to see all of these prices start to go up to market level conditions or certainly not at the current subsidized level.  Even electricity was free and we have to change all of that as we bring this country along and bring it into the 21st century and into an integrated economic world.

MR. RUSSERT:  But psychologically the American people see their gasoline over $2 a gallon and they see the Iraqis paying a nickel and they say what is this about?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, what it's about is a broken system that we are trying to fix.

MR. RUSSERT:  I saw this articles in The New York Times.  I want to ask you about it because your involvement as a heroic military man and as secretary of state.  This is Specialist Danielle Green, and here's her picture.  She lost her left hand in the war.  She was known as "D. Smooth" when she played basketball for Notre Dame, and she said this:  "They just don't want us there. I personally don't think we should have gone into Iraq, not the way things have turned out.  A lot more people are going to get hurt, and for what?"

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, I'm terribly sorry that she lost her hand.  We regret all losses of that kind, loss of life, the injuries that our young men and women have suffered and those of the coalition forces and those of the Iraqi people as well.  But I hope she will see in time that her sacrifice was worth it, that we are going to leave in place a nation that is better than the nation that we found when we went in, with the people that believe in the rule of law, that have defeated this insurgency, that are having democratic elections and will be a model for the rest of the region.  And I don't think that's out of our reach.

These are difficult times.  The security situation is difficult, but if we were to defeat this insurgency, say, tomorrow if we could--we can't but it'll take us a while--once this insurgency is put down, brought under control, then I think you're going to see rapid reconstruction, you're going to see a rapid movement to a constitution and to elections, and it is completely within our reach to put in place the kind of system that we think the Iraqi people deserve.  And guess what?  The new Iraqi leadership wants that kind of system for its people.  You will be speaking to the president of the interim government a little bit later on and you will see that they are committed to democracy, the rule of law, Shia majority clearly but protecting the rights of the Sunnis and the Kurds and the other minorities within the country, something we all can be proud of.  And it takes the sacrifice of wonderful young men and women often to achieve this kind of freedom, this kind of liberty.

MR. RUSSERT:  We turn over the keys, if you will, on June 30, just two weeks from now, but the American people should not think that it's the end of the violence.  It could potentially still be a long, hot, bloody summer.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Yes, it could be, and it's long and hot and bloody right now. We see that these people don't want a better life for the Iraqi people, and we're going to have to stay the course and show the kind of determination, patience that we have shown in previous conflicts.

MR. RUSSERT:  As you try to oversee our foreign policy, the president oversee the war in Iraq, this is the Gallup poll about U.S. attitudes on war.  Whether the war was just, World War II, overwhelmingly, 90 percent to 7 percent; Iraq, 49 to 49.  How much does that affect your ability to conduct policy?

SEC'Y POWELL:  It makes it more difficult because we have to explain to the American people and explain to the world why it was a just war and what it's all about and what we're trying to accomplish. And when you have difficult situations, as we're having now with officials being assassinated and bombs going off, people see this on television, they begin to question.  And we have to keep reinforcing to the American people and to the rest of the world why this was, one, a just war, why it makes sense for us to stay the course and keep reminding people that a very tyrannical, terrible regime that filled mass

graves, that did terrible things to its own people and that was a destabilizing influence in the region is gone, and let's not forget that. They are gone.  This insurgency has to be defeated and when it's defeated, then you will see that the process of democratization, constitution-writing, elections and reconstruction will move rapidly, and we are going to be there to help the Iraqi people.

MR. RUSSERT:  Some observers, Mr. Secretary, will say the primary rationale for the war, weapons of mass destruction, have not been found; we were supposed to be greeted as liberators, which is not the case; that a lot more than just the 130,000 troops are truly necessary; that General Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, who said we needed hundreds of thousands, was probably more correct.  Why shouldn't people say that this war has been mismanaged from the very beginning?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, it's succeeded in its principal objective of eliminating this regime and the intention and capability that this regime had to have weapons of mass destruction.  Even though we haven't found actual stockpiles, we now don't have to worry about that intention or capability anymore. It's gone.  And, clearly, the insurgency has caused us more of a problem than we had anticipated in the beginning.

We did come as liberators, but the Iraqi people want us to remain.  You don't see any polls saying, "Get out right away."  They want us to leave in due course, but right now this new government is asking us to stay in order to help secure the country.  And let's not use the actions of just the insurgents as the reaction of the entire population.  The entire population--they want jobs and they want electricity, they want revenue coming in from their oil, and they want us ultimately to leave.  They want their own forces to provide for their security.  And we are working toward those goals, building up the Iraqi forces to

provide their own security; due course, bringing our force levels down, so we can go home, and getting to the elections at the end of the year, a new government and then a constitution next year.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to Afghanistan, because it's not been on the radar of the American people very much.  There was a sense after September 11th--we went into Afghanistan, toppled the Taliban, and now things are all just fine, which is far from the case, as you well know.  This is the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of the Congress, who put this out:  "Conditions in Afghanistan, such as the deteriorating security situation, the relative weakness of the central government, and the increase in opium production, complicate the longer-term reconstruction process and threaten its ultimate success."

SEC'Y POWELL:  There is much work to be done in Afghanistan, but a lot of work has been accomplished, and we shouldn't sell it short.  President Karzai, who you will have on your show in a few moments, has done a tremendous job.  He's a visionary leader.  And when you think of where we were right after the defeat of the Taliban, where there wasn't a single phone working, there is now a government that is functioning.  It is slowly but surely extending its reach out beyond the capital.  It is being challenged still by Taliban remnants and some al-Qaida presence, and they also will have to be defeated.  And we're going to stick with the Afghan government as they go about doing this.  But they are now scheduled for free elections in September, and those elections are on track.  And I think slowly but surely we are going to be successful in Afghanistan.  We are successful now.

MR. RUSSERT:  There are reports that the elections may be postponed again.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, I've heard those reports, and we'll just have to wait and see.  But right now, in my conversations with President Karzai, he is still committed to having the elections in September.

MR. RUSSERT:  How concerned are you about the dramatic increase in opium or heroin production?

SEC'Y POWELL:  It is a major problem.  And we are working with our European friends, especially the British, who have the lead on the opium-reduction programs in Afghanistan.  President Karzai fully understands that this shadow economy cannot be allowed to continue and exist.  But it is a difficult problem to get on top of, as we have discovered with drug production in other parts of the world.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me turn to this report on "Global Terrorism," your credibility being called into question.  This is your deputy secretary of State, Richard Armitage, in April.

(Videotape, April 29, 2004):

MR. RICHARD ARMITAGE (Deputy Secretary of State):  Indeed you will find in these pages clear evidence that we are prevailing in the fight.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  "In the fight on terrorism."  And the report says this:  "There were 190 acts of international terrorism in 2003, a slight decrease from the 198 attacks that occurred in 2002, a drop-off of 45 percent from the level in 2001 of 346 attacks.  The figure in 2003 represents the lowest annual total of international terrorist attacks since 1969."  And then two professors from Princeton took a look at this, and from Stanford, and they concluded this: "Yet, a careful review of the report and underlying data supports the opposite conclusion:  The number of significant terrorist acts increased from 124 in 2001 to 169 in 2003 - 36 percent - even using the State Department's official standards.  ...The only verifiable information in the annual reports indicates that the number of terrorist events has risen each year since 2001, and in 2003 it reached its highest level in more than 20 years."

Henry Waxman, the Democratic congressman of California, said that you are manipulating data for political purposes.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, we're not.  The data in our report is incorrect.  If you read the narrative of the report, it makes it clear that the war on terror is a difficult one, and that we're pursuing it with all of the means at our disposal.  But something happened in the data collection, and we're getting to the bottom of it.  Teams have been working for the last several days and all weekend long.  I'll be having a meeting in the department tomorrow with CIA, other contributing agencies, the Terrorist Threat Information Center, and my own staff to find out how these numbers got into the report.  Some cutoff dates were shifted from the way it was done in the past.  There's nothing political about it.  It was a data collection and reporting error, and we'll get to the bottom of it and we'll issue a corrected report.  And I've talked to Congressman Waxman.

MR. RUSSERT:  Was it CIA data?

SEC'Y POWELL:  It's a combination of data that flows in, and some of it is CIA.  The Terrorist Threat Information Center compiles data, provides it to us.  But when you look at it in hindsight now, and you look at the analysis given to me by Congressman Waxman and these two congressmen, all sorts of alarm bells should have gone off.  All sorts of, as I say to my staff, circuit breakers should have dropped when we saw this data, and they didn't.  But I don't think there was anything political or policy driven about it.  It was just data that was incorrect, or it wasn't properly measured compared to the way it was measured in previous years.  And so what we have to do is normalize the data this past year, 2003, in the same way that we normalized data in previous years, and we will be putting out that corrected information as fast as we can.

MR. RUSSERT:  But it is embarrassing.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Very embarrassing.  I am not a happy camper over this.  We were wrong.

MR. RUSSERT:  You know, you take this report on terrorism, and the last time you were here about a month ago, Mr. Secretary, I asked about your presentation to the United Nations, and this is what you said.

(Videotape, May 16, 2004):

SEC'Y POWELL:  But it turned out that the sourcing was inaccurate and wrong, and in some cases deliberately misleading.  And for that I am disappointed, and I regret it.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Inaccurate, wrong, deliberately misleading on WMD.  And then this report on terrorism.  Why shouldn't the American people lose all confidence in the information their government is giving them from the CIA about weapons of mass destruction, about terrorism, and who knows what else?

SEC'Y POWELL:  And the term "misleading" in the context of the earlier interview was that the sources were misleading, not the agency was misleading. The sources were misleading.  With respect to this report, if you read the report, you will see that, in narrative form, it gives a solid picture of the challenge we are facing with terrorism.  It doesn't downplay terrorism in the slightest.  But, unfortunately, the datathat is within the report, the actual numbers of incidents, is off.  It's wrong.  And I am regretful that this has happened.  We're going to get it fixed.  We're going to get it corrected.  And that's the best I can do.

MR. RUSSERT:  But the information given to you to go before the United Nations also inaccurate, wrong.  What's wrong?  What's going on?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, we've got to get to the bottom of that, Tim.  And with respect to this terror report, we're going to get to the bottom of it tomorrow.

MR. RUSSERT:  Are you pleased that director of the CIA, George Tenet, resigned?

SEC'Y POWELL:  George is a good friend of mine.  And it was a personal decision of his.  I regret that I'm not going to be able to work with him. He's a dedicated individual.  He has had many successes during his years as director of the CIA.  And there have been some areas where I know that he would rather have seen things turn out differently.  But he has served this nation very, very well, and with great distinction and honor.

MR. RUSSERT:  When you look at the CIA information on the weapons of mass destruction, former President Clinton said Saddam had weapons of mass destruction, as well as current President Bush.  The U.N. inspectors.  The Russian, French and German intelligence agencies said he had weapons of mass destruction.  What happened?  How could there have been such a colossal intelligence failure?

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, maybe because what we were all looking at was a body of evidence that gave you every reason to believe that he did have weapons of mass destruction.  He had the intention.  He used them.  He stiffed the U.N. for 12 years.  He had the infrastructure.  He had the capability.  The only thing we haven't been able to find are actual current stockpiles of such weapons.  Everything else was there.  Everything else was there with respect to capability and intention.  And any reasonable person looking at this regime, looking at the threat inherent in that intention and capability would have come to the conclusion based on unanswered questions.  Remember, the basis for the stockpiles were unanswered questions about what he had had in the past and what happened to it, and some inferential evidence we had with respect to bunkers and other information we had that gave any reasonable person basis to believe that there were stockpiles, in addition to capability and intention.  We haven't found those stockpiles.

But there's no doubt in my mind that he never lost the intention or the capability.  If he'd ever been freed from international inspection or the pressure of the international community and just left alone and we hadn't acted, you would see Saddam Hussein still there still, now developing stockpiles with the freedom to do so because he's not under pressure.

MR. RUSSERT:  Before you go, Mr. Secretary, last time you were on one month ago, I received thousands of letters and telegrams about this scene.  Let's just watch it for a second.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Tim, don't swing the camera away from me again.

(Videotape, May 16, 2004):

MR. RUSSERT:  Finally, Mr. Secretary, in February of 2003, you placed your enormous...

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. Secretary, you answered the question.  And because of that we are eternally grateful.  We'd like to present you the first annual Colin Powell Palm Tree Award for answering questions under adverse circumstances. You'll forever be in the annals of MEET THE PRESS.  We thank you again for joining us today.

SEC'Y POWELL:  Well, Tim, thank you very much.  I honor this.  A very dedicated staffer of mine knew that I had two other interviews to do, and she was trying to serve me, but did not know you were still asking a question. And I'm glad we got the question in, and I accept this in the spirit in which it is offered.

MR. RUSSERT:  And thank you for your answer as always.

Coming next, the president of Afghanistan and the president of Iraq.  Then our MEET THE PRESS Minute with then-Ambassador to the U.N. George Herbert Walker Bush.  He was on MEET THE PRESS 33 years ago.  The president of Iraq and Afghanistan, and George Herbert Walker Bush all coming up right here on MEET THE PRESS.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  The president of Afghanistan and the new president of Iraq after this brief station break.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  President Karzai, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

PRES. KARZAI:  Thanks so much.

MR. RUSSERT:  Will elections in Afghanistan definitely be held in September?

PRES. KARZAI:  Well, we want it very much definitely to be held in September. We began a registration process for the voters some months ago and the process began to be expedited about 25 days, a month ago.  Since the speed was applied to the process, we have had many of the new people registered for voting. Today we have 3,700,000 voters registered.  Now, if this trend continues for another two months with the current administration we have, we should be very much on course for fall elections, inshallah.

MR. RUSSERT:  So you feel very confident elections will be held in September?

PRES. KARZAI:  I feel confident because the Afghan people want it very much. We are under pressure from the Afghan people to expedite the process of registration to reach the villages and the Afghan people want to elect their government.

MR. RUSSERT:  The Washington Post on Tuesday wrote this.  "Since he was installed as Afghanistan's interim leader following the U.S.-led ouster of Islamic Taliban rule in late 2001, Karzai has been belittled as an American puppet, an indecisive leader and a hypocrite who touts democratic ideals while making backroom deals to cling to power."

PRES. KARZAI:  Well, first of all, it was not the United States that came to us.  We came to the United States long before September 11.  We began to tell the United States and the rest of the world from 1996 onward of what was going on in Afghanistan and of what was brewing there for us and for the rest of the world, and we kept coming and applying pressure in Washington for Washington's intervention on behalf of the Afghan people and, as a consequence, on behalf of the world community to get rid of the Taliban and the terrorists there implanted in Afghanistan.  So it's the other way around.  We were

pushing, and when September 11 occurred, the United States knew that there was a willing population in Afghanistan to go to and to work with to remove terrorism. That's what happened.

Now, the backdoor deals, there's nothing like that.  Those people that The Washington Post talked about as backdoor dealers, they're part of the Afghan society.  They were in the Afghan resistance.  They have offered not to take the country through a competition for elections towards unwanted instability. And they're right to go and approach people for negotiations.  Isn't democracy about talking?

MR. RUSSERT:  But it's not just The Washington Post.  Here's the Christian Science Monitor, Mr. President:  "Over the past few weeks, President Hamid Karzai has held a series of meetings with top military commanders famous for their defeat of Soviet forces and for running a murderous four-year government after that.  Presidential spokesmen call the talks an effort at ensuring a stable election process free of intimidation.  Critics, even the commanders themselves, say the talks were about something else, a deal to promise key Cabinet posts to warlords in exchange for their support" of you.

PRES. KARZAI:  Absolutely not.  Absolutely not.  First of all, we have now a country where democracy flourishes.  We have a country of political parties. We have a country of laws.  We have a country of preparations for elections, and when you prepare for elections, people talk to each other.  Do you want us to fight each other?  We are talking to each other, and in that talking the country is preparing itself for future elections peacefully.  Now, there is no--I have a plan for Afghanistan.  The plan is that Afghanistan should be having its next government based on a platform of reform.  Whoever joins that platform of reform will be part of this movement for the future.  There will be no coalition, period, definitely not.  Afghanistan has suffered from coalition, we will not have a coalition.  But we will talk to people, we will talk to anybody in Afghanistan in order to have a smooth election, in order to take the country in unity and transparency towards a better future.

MR. RUSSERT:  Don't the warlords run Afghanistan and not you?

PRES. KARZAI:  Definitely not.  There are people who are in the government, there are people who are outside of the government, there are some people outside of the government who have their private militias that is causing a lot of hurt to Afghanistan, that the Afghan people have wanted to disarm from the very beginning of the interim government.  The process of DDR, disarmament, decommissioning and renegotiation, is something created for this purpose.  They are not running the government.  The Afghan government is running the government.  The Afghan government has legitimacy all over the country, but if you say if the Afghan government is effective enough, it's a different question.  We are a weak administration.  We have come out after 30 years of war and suffering and a tremendous shortage of human resources.  That applies to our weakness there.

MR. RUSSERT:  The question many Americans have is that after we went in and eliminated the Taliban or tried to eliminate the Taliban, but the Taliban still very much exists, doesn't it?

PRES. KARZAI:  They do exist as individuals, as groups, not as a movement. Three years ago, they were the government of Afghanistan together with terrorism.  Three years ago, they could reach you in New York and Washington. Three years ago they could threaten you.  Today they are on the run.  They are fugitives.  We are after them.  Yes, they can seek targets of opportunity, but they're no longer an organized force so I would say that no, there isn't a Taliban movement.  There are individuals, there are terrorists that come and apply tactics of terrorism on the Afghan population, on civilians, on aid workers, but no organized movement, period, definitely.

MR. RUSSERT:  Where is Mohammad Omar, the Taliban leader?

PRES. KARZAI:  We don't know.  He's hiding.  Now, how can someone that's hiding be called a force? He is hiding.  We are looking for him.

MR. RUSSERT:  Where is Osama bin Laden?

PRES. KARZAI:  He's hiding, too, and we are looking for him, too.

MR. RUSSERT:  Are they hiding in plain sight?

PRES. KARZAI:  They are hiding perhaps in the mountains.  They are hiding perhaps in the border territories between of Afghanistan and Pakistan.  Maybe they are hiding somewhere else.  We don't know.  We are looking for them on daily basis, and no fugitive can run forever.

MR. RUSSERT:  Are there elements, though, in your government who would prefer not to capture Mohammad Omar or not to capture Osama bin Laden?

PRES. KARZAI:  No, there are no such elements in our government who would prefer not to capture them.  We all want to capture them and we will one day.

MR. RUSSERT:  Are there elements in the Pakistani government who would prefer not to capture Osama bin Laden?

PRES. KARZAI:  I don't know about that.

MR. RUSSERT:  Let me ask you about opium production.

PRES. KARZAI:  Right.

MR. RUSSERT:  And this is from the United States General Accounting Office report.  And it's long but I want to read it because it's very important to the American people as to what's happening in your country.  "Opium production threatened stability.  The illicit international trade in Afghan opiates threatened Afghan's stability during fiscal years 2002-2003.  The drug trade provided income for terrorists and warlords fueling the factions that worked against stability and national unity.  In 2002, Afghan farmers produced 3,442 metric tons of opium, providing $2.5 billion in trafficking revenue.  In 2003 opium production in the country increased to 3,600 metric tons, the second largest harvest in the country's history.  Further, heroin laboratories have proliferated in Afghanistan in recent years.  As a result of the increased poppy production and in-country heroin production, greater resources were available to Afghan criminal networks and others at odds the the central government.  The International Monetary Fund and Afghanistan's minister of Finance have stated that the potential exists for Afghanistan to become a `narcostate' in which all legitimate institutions are infiltrated by the power and wealth of drug traffickers.'

PRES. KARZAI:  That is quite possible.  We have a serious problem because of drugs on our hands. We began to work against drug production three years ago, as soon as we came into government, but the first year of passing the government, we made the mistake.  The mistake was that we went and paid farmers in return for destruction.  This encouraged everybody else to grow poppies, thinking that if they grow poppies, we will go to destroy it and pay them for it.  And if we don't go to destroy it, they will

have the poppies. So we made that mistake.  And last year we recognized it, and we began to destroy poppies.  This year, again, we have gone and destroyed poppies.

But this is not a simple problem.  We are talking of a country in which there was 30 years of war, in which there were six years of horrible drought.  When I moved into Afghanistan three years ago, I saw with my own eyes an orchard of pomegranates that was turned into poppy fields; that's how serious the problem is.  But we recognize and so do the Afghan people that this is a problem that can cause Afghanistan to go into serious danger.  This production of poppies supports terrorism.  It trivializes the economy.  It undermines institution building in Afghanistan.  Afghanistan will have to destroy it for the sake of the Afghan people and, also, because of the world.

But we cannot do this alone.  We will destroy the poppies, but next year they will come again; therefore there has to be a plan together with the international community to provide alternative livelihood, alternative economy and better reconstruction in Afghanistan on a sustainable manner so that we over time get rid of the problem.  The Afghan people don't want it.  They know it is illegitimate.  Our clergy, our religious community, our tribal chiefs, the government, the institutions are working against it on a

daily basis, and we will succeed because we have to succeed.

MR. RUSSERT:  But if 80 percent of the 27 million people in Afghanistan live in poverty and the warlords want to maintain their power, why won't the warlords allow opium to be raised because it provides money to the farmers and keeps them in power?

PRES. KARZAI:  We began two and a half years ago where there was no government.  The institutions were completely destroyed.  In two and a half years' time, we have had the bond process.  We've had the grand council, the Loya Jirga, to elect a government.  We've had the grand council to create a constitution, which we did.  We are now going to the next stage, which is elections.  This country is moving forward.  But this country has problems, too, to overcome, and we will continue to have many, many problems as we keep building ourselves.

Drugs is one of the most serious problems that occur in Afghanistan. Warlordism, as you said, is another serious problem that we have in Afghanistan.  We, the Afghan people, want to get rid of them.  The common Afghan man and woman that come to see me every day in my office, they ask me to get rid of these difficulties for them, especially the drugs and warlordism.  And I hope the international community will stand stronger with us on both these problems.

MR. RUSSERT:  But with the warlords and the drug traffickers, but for the United States' government, could you possibly stay in power?

PRES. KARZAI:  Without the presence of the United States forces in Afghanistan, without the presence of the international community in Afghanistan, without the presence of the ISAF in Afghanistan, Afghanistan will not be in good shape.  That is why the Afghan people keep asking for more of the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan.  That is why the Afghan people are asking for the deployment of NATO coalitions.  That's why the Afghan people have embraced the arrival of the United States of America in Afghanistan for its liberation, because they know that we need international assistance in order to build our institutions over time, in order to build a national army, in order to build a national police.  And before Afghanistan can stand on its own feet, it will be many years from now.

MR. RUSSERT:  President Karzai, we thank you for joining us on MEET THE PRESS and sharing your views.

PRES. KARZAI:  Thank you very much.

MR. RUSSERT:  And we'll be right back with the newly appointed president of Iraq.  I sat down with him yesterday afternoon.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. President, welcome to MEET THE PRESS.

PRES. GHAZI AL-YAWAR (Iraqi Interim Government):  Thank you, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  The director general of the Foreign Ministry was assassinated today.  How long are the killings and the assassinations going to go on?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  That's very tragic.  Definitely this is an act of somebody who wants to destabilize Iraq, to drain off Iraq of qualified, capable people. These are random killings.  We hope that by re-establishing, reinstating our security forces these things will start diminishing.

MR. RUSSERT:  You say that you blame the U.S. "100 percent" for the lack of security in Iraq.  Why?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  I didn't say so.  What I said at that time, when I was asked a certain question, I said the beginning of the problems started when we dismantled the security forces' structures in Iraq back in spring 2003, leaving the borders wide open at that time.  But I don't blame them today, or six months ago.  It's a collective job that we have to do, but we're still suffering from the outcome of leaving the border lines wide open, and leaving people without jobs from security and defense entities.

MR. RUSSERT:  After the turnover on June 30, do you expect the violence to increase or decrease?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  It's going to be terrible for a while.  We expect that they will try to increase the incidents and the violence for a while, but we are committed, we are consistent and we are focused to make sure that we take preparatory--or we take necessary preparations in order to defuse the situation. The good thing that the whole Iraqi nation is positive, cautiously positive, about the new government. The people in Iraq, whether public or other political parties, are rallying behind this government.  And this is a sign of strength for this government.

MR. RUSSERT:  But won't the Iraqis have to be willing to take on security themselves rather than rely on the Americans?  Won't the Iraqis have to be willing to kill fellow Iraqis in order to stabilize the situation?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Well, first of all, definitely.  There is no nation in the world who wants to rely on somebody else defending their security.  What we lack right now--we are practical.  We are realistic. We know that we lack enough security forces and capabilities in order to depend 100 percent on our forces.  There are enemies, foreign and domestic, who are trying to destabilize and derail this new, wonderful trend in Iraq.  Definitely we're going to work very hard on re-establishing our security forces to make sure that at a certain time, we will thank our friends who've been helping us.

MR. RUSSERT:  At a certain time.  How long do you think U.S. troops will be in Iraq?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Well, there's no ceiling.  It depends on how soon can we re-establish our security forces.  It might happen in not less than six months to a year's time probably because we don't want to make the expectations too high.  We are working...

MR. RUSSERT:  All U.S. troops out six months to a year?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  For the purpose of maintaining our stability and security, definitely; when we're going to have our in-house expertise, definitely.  The United States doesn't want to leave a mass number of forces forever in Iraq, but they are doing it for a noble cause that's helping us and enabling us to move on with our new road to democracy.

MR. RUSSERT:  What happens to Saddam Hussein?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  He is now in U.S. custody or coalition custody.  At a certain time in the near future he should be handed over to Iraqi custody, given the fact that we must make sure we protect his life and security until he's submitted into a tribunal.  This tribunal, we want to make sure it goes as a legal process with judges of high credibility, Iraqi judges.  We want him to have his fair chance of defense.  Then the government has to have a fair chance on pressing charges against him.  Then we will leave that to the law.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe that Saddam Hussein deserves the death penalty?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Well, I believe he would deserve whatever the law allows to his case.  We are people of an Iraq that used to be when the trial starts, there's already a precooked or prepared sentence in the pocket of the judge. We don't want that to happen.  We are different.  We are strong.

MR. RUSSERT:  Thus far the United States has lost 827 soldiers, airmen, military servicemen in Iraq; more than 5,000 injured and wounded.  And yet you recently said the United States was guilty of genocide.  Do you think that's appropriate gratitude for what the United States did for Iraq?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  I never said that, my friend.

MR. RUSSERT:  You said the United States in Fallujah...

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  No.

MR. RUSSERT:  ...was committing genocide.

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Yes.  Yes.  That was in the Fallujah case when a massive army besieges a city. Yes, we are against the bad elements in Fallujah, but the best way to get rid of them--by separating them from the rest of the people. When you besiege a city with an army and you start shelling it with jet fighters, definitely you are turning the law-abiding citizens of Fallujah to be comrades in a struggle with the bad elements.  We don't want that to happen.

No, my friend, we in Iraq appreciate very much the valuable sacrifices that our friends, the brave young men and women of the United States and Great Britain, are having in the cause of our democracy.  We are very appreciative for that.  We will never forget that.  It was a certain incident that happened in Fallujah.  We didn't want the United States to be having the image in the eyes of the Iraqis as the country who is trying to randomly punish or collectively punish Iraqis.  I understand the values that the United States stands for, and I want it to be reflected clear and simple to the Iraqi public.

MR. RUSSERT:  Do you believe Iraq will ever be a pure democracy?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Why not?  If we make all Iraqis feel that they are partners in this country, if all Iraqis know that they have a stake, an interest in the prosperity of Iraq, when we enhance the level of national awareness within the Iraqi people, when all Iraqis feel they are, I mean, equal in front of the law of Iraq, definitely we will be a democracy.  It will happen after a long time. It's a long process.  We have to stay focused and consistent in order to achieve that.

MR. RUSSERT:  Years?  Decades?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Years.  Probably more than 10 years, maybe a decade and a half.

MR. RUSSERT:  Would Iraq ever become an Islamic theocracy like Iran?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  I don't think so.  Whoever knows the social background of the Iraqi people, they know that, yes, they are genuine believers in God, but it's a live and let live society.  What we want to have in Iraq is a society that everybody can live comfortably.  Everybody respects other people's private beliefs but nobody should prevail on the others.  We are a diversity of religions and ethnic groups which we are proud of because this is a positive sign.  It's like the United States, the most important that all

backgrounds should melt into the Iraqi national identity.

MR. RUSSERT:  Iraq will not break up into a civil war or become a haven for terrorism like Afghanistan?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Never.  I am 100 percent optimistic, never.  Yes, we will have some turbulence, but Iraq never had ethnic or sectarian problems or civil wars in the past.  It will never have that in the future.

MR. RUSSERT:  Will the new Iraqi government, both the interim government and the newly elected government, be always a staunch ally of the United States?

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  What we are working on in Iraq, we understand that for the good benefit of Iraq and the prosperity of the whole Middle East, we have to stay in excellent relationship with the United States.  We must be strategic friends of the United States.  We want to have a win-win situation or a win-win relationship between Iraq and the United States.  The stability of Iraq is very important to the region and to the world as all, and at the same time it's very important to us to keep in good or excellent relationship with the United States.  This is what we are working on for.

MR. RUSSERT:  Mr. President, we thank you very much for your views.

PRES. AL-YAWAR:  Thank you, sir.

MR. RUSSERT:  Coming next, our MEET THE PRESS minute with former President George Herbert Walker Bush, who turned 80 yesterday.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  And we are back.

In 1971 President Nixon appointed former Congressman George Bush to be U.S. ambassador to the United Nations after losing a Senate race the previous year to Lloyd Bentsen.  Even after he went to the U.N., questions were still raised about his political future.

(Videotape, MEET THE PRESS, March 21, 1971):

MR. MICHAEL BERLIN (New York Post):  In your outlook on this job, do you feel that it's a suitable one for national office, and would you like to run for vice president someday?

AMBASSADOR GEORGE H.W. BUSH:  I know you're going to find this hard to believe.  I don't want to start a credibility gap because you cover the U.N. I have no such ambitions, plans.  I want to be a good ambassador here.  If I had political ambitions, I think I would have stayed in Texas and kind of watched, you know, other--why people start parking in front of our door, you know?  And I don't have any such plans at all.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT:  In fact, nine years later, Ronald Reagan selected George Herbert Walker Bush, his former primary opponent, to be his vice presidential running mate.  They were elected and then re-elected in 1984.  In 1988, George Herbert Walker Bush won his own term as president but was defeated for a second term in 1992 by Bill Clinton.

Yesterday, former President Bush celebrated his 80th birthday, which he will commemorate today by once again jumping out of an airplane in a parachute.

And we'll be right back.

                               (Announcements)

MR. RUSSERT:  Start your day tomorrow on "Today" with Katie and Matt.  Then the "NBC Nightly News" with Tom Brokaw.  That's all for today.  We'll be back next week.  If it's Sunday, it's MEET THE PRESS.

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