"US has obligation to encourage Iranian protests Powell
UN Secretary General Kofi Annan (L) reads a statement at a press conference with, from L to R, US Secretary of State Colin Powell, Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana, to detail the outcomes of a `Quartet' meeting held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum extraordinary annual meeting, on Sunday, on the shores of the Dead Sea. The international Middle East peace Quartet, which drafted the `roadmap' for Middle East peace, met on site to plan the next steps for the implementation of the blueprint which foresees a Palestinian state by 2005 ( AFP PHOTO)
SHUNEH (AFP) The United States has a duty to encourage Iranian protests against the country's regime but is not looking for a fight with the Islamic republic, US Secretary of State Colin Powell said Sunday.
Powell, speaking to a special meeting of the World Economic Forum (WEF) at the Dead Sea resort, said recent anti-government demonstrations in Iran showed that Washington was on the right track with its efforts to promote democracy and reform in the Middle East.
We know we are on the right track because we know the people of this region are calling for change, for opportunity, for education, for more than false promises and intolerant ideology and violence, he said.
Look at what is happening in Iran, Powell said. Students and intellectuals are out in the streets calling for change in a land that has known only shahs and ayatollahs.
They are demanding to be part of this new Middle East, he said, referring to the reconstruction of post war Iraq, renewed Arab-Israeli peace efforts and free market and trade reforms among various countries in the region.
Powell, who on Monday, angered Tehran by saying that the United States was encouraging but not fomenting the Iran protests, repeated the rationale behind the US position.
We are seeing young people speak out and march and demonstrate because they are not satisfied with the leadership they're receiving either from the political leadership or the leadership coming down from the religious leaders of the country, he said.
We encourage the demonstrations not as a way of fomenting trouble but to say people should be free to speak out, people should be free to express their desires, to express their hopes, express their concerns, Powell said.
That's what the Iranian people are now doing and we encourage that and that's our policy, he said.
He also reiterated US complaints about Iranian support for groups deemed terrorist by Washington, as well as its alleged nuclear weapons programme and attempts to influence events in southern Iraq.
We are watching what's happening within the country, encouraging what's taking place within the population, Powell said. We have to provide encouragement and support to those who are seeking the right to speak out.
Despite that, Powell stressed that the United States did not intend to invade or otherwise enter into conflict with Iran, which is a charter member of President George W. Bush's axis of evil.
For some to go beyond that and say the United States is getting ready for something aggressive or looking for another place to have a conflict is absolutely wrong, he said.
We are being very careful in our words and our actions.
A small Iranian student demonstration over government education policy on June 10 spiralled into nearly 10 days of unrest, marked by virulent anti-regime protests and clashes between protestors and security forces or vigilantes.
Scores of people were seriously injured and hundreds arrested during the unrest, blamed by clerical leaders on the United States.
Monday, June 23, 2003"
I agree with every word you wrote. I wasn't referring to Powell, but the Bubba-era holdovers that (AFAIK) are still there in State.