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SECRETARY POWELL: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It has been my pleasure to host my dear friend and good colleague, the Foreign Minister of Egypt, Minister Maher. We have had a good conversation, reviewing the situation in the Middle East, in light of the developments of today, with a successful meeting between Minister Shimon Peres and Chairman Arafat. And we will both be working closely together to assist the Palestinians and the Israelis to move forward from this new beginning.
And we have also had a good discussion of the events of September 11th , and what we have been doing together since then. I expressed my appreciation to the Minister and, through him, to President Mubarak for the strong words of support and for the condolences we have received from the Egyptian people and I, in turn, extended my regrets to the families of the Egyptians who were lost in the World Trade Center.
And I also expressed my appreciation for the commitment that Egypt has made to working with us as we move forward to deal with the scourge of terrorism. Egypt, as all of us know, is really ahead of us on this issue. They have had to deal with acts of terrorism in recent years in the course of their history. And we have much to learn from them and there is much we can do together.
So I welcome my colleague and I look forward to continued cooperation with him, his associates, and with the Egyptian Government as we move forward on this campaign.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. It is always a pleasure to meet with you, even in difficult circumstances. Because the message I brought was a message of reiterating our condolences and reiterating our solidarity -- the solidarity of the Egyptian people, President and Government with the United States -- and our determination to work together in the fight against terrorism.
As the Secretary said, we have suffered from terrorism, and it is only normal that we should join any attempt to get rid of this scourge from which the world has suffered and continues to suffer.
We are cooperating with the United States in many ways and we have discussed this matter. We have discussed our opinions and we exchange ideas about the best way to do that. We believe that the United States, as the government of a country that believes in law and justice, will act on the basis of a case -- a good case -- and I am sure they have a good case -- against the culprits who committed this horrible crime of September 11th.
We also talked about the necessity of establishing an international consensus around this fight, which is manifold and will take a long time. I explained our ideas about the international conference, which is not a substitute for the necessity to punish the culprits.
We also discussed the Middle East question and the role that the Secretary, personally, and the United States Government have played in bringing together the meeting that took place this morning between Chairman Yasser Arafat and Shimon Peres, which was a promising meeting and development. And we both are determined to continue to help both parties to reach the stage where they can resume, after the implementation of the Tenet and Mitchell recommendations, they can resume negotiations on the final status negotiations.
I come out of this meeting reassured, and our friendship, as I can report to you, is as strong today as it has always been. Thank you very much.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, there are many people who are arguing now, in the Pentagon or even on the Capitol, to have more targets, and specifically for a new military campaign in the Middle East and other countries in the world. What do you think about this?
SECRETARY POWELL: Well, I don't know about those reports. But what we are focusing on is terrorism and going after terrorists, not only those who are responsible for this event on the 11th of September, but who are responsible for other terrorist activities of a global reach.
We are not using this as a way to punish nations indiscriminately. I can assure you that President Bush sees this as a long-term campaign that he will pursue with patience and perseverance, in close consultation with our friends and allies.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, with the new development in Gaza, would you like to comment on this new security zone in the West Bank?
SECRETARY POWELL: We are in discussions with our Israeli colleagues about their ideas for security. And I think with the progress that we have seen in today's meeting and knowing that other meetings are coming up, that all issues in contention such as this are available to be put on the table as these meetings go forward. And we will be following that progress and taking a more active role as the meetings begin to one follow the other.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, the President went to the CIA today and forcefully defended the job that George Tenet has been doing. Do you feel that you are getting the information that you need from him to do your job?
And, Mr. Minister, could you comment on how Mr. Tenet is viewed in Egypt and the Middle East?
SECRETARY POWELL: From my standpoint, George Tenet is doing an absolutely outstanding job. I consider him not only a trusted friend, but a great working colleague. He is providing to the State Department all that I would expect from the CIA. We have excellent relations between the CIA and the INR Bureau that does intelligence here in the State Department. And I certainly share the President's judgment that Director Tenet is doing a terrific job.
FOREIGN MINISTER MAHER: The only comment I would make about your question is to tell you that George Tenet has many friends in my country.
QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, we have heard this administration say time and again it is not into nation building in Afghanistan. But, clearly, if the Taliban continues to stand in the way of bin Laden and the terrorist network, is the US Government going to remove the Taliban or encourage other groups within Afghanistan to go after the Taliban? If so, who fills the void?
SECRETARY POWELL: As our campaign unfolds, you will see we are going after the al-Qaida network, we are going after Usama bin Laden. We are going to do it in a way that is mindful of the suffering that is currently being inflicted upon the Afghan people. And, hopefully, a better day is ahead for the Afghan people.
But, right now, I am not prepared to say, nor is the United States Government prepared to say, how they might be governed in the future or what might be the fate of the Taliban regime. As the President has said in his speech and as we have said repeatedly, those who provide a haven or harbor this kind of terrorist organization must be prepared to pay consequences for their actions.
Released on September 26, 2001
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