11 September 2001>News Stories>Powell Says Administration Is Serious on 'Axis of Evil' Nations

Powell Says Administration Is Serious on 'Axis of Evil' Nations

Todd S. Purdum . NY Times . 05 February 2002

Secretary of State Colin Powell said today that the U.S. was willing to sign a treaty with Russia on limiting strategic weapons.

WASHINGTON, Feb. 5 — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell said today that President Bush's linkage of Iraq, Iran and North Korea into an "axis of evil," was "not a rhetorical flourish — he meant it," and he said that Iraq's overture to the United Nations to resume talks should amount to "a very short discussion," because weapons inspectors should immediately be allowed back in that country without conditions.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Mr. Powell also said that the United States expects to meet Russia's demand for a "legally binding" agreement on reducing nuclear warheads, whether that takes the form of a treaty ratified by Congress or some less formal document. By saying so, Mr. Powell confirmed comments by senior administration officials last week.

In more than two hours of wide-ranging testimony on the State Department's annual budget request, Mr. Powell left little daylight between himself and the White House on any topic, and sought to reassure senators from both parties that Mr. Bush had intended to make a deliberate statement in his State of the Union address last week that Washington will not stand by and let rogue regimes export weapons of mass destruction or terrorism.

"It isn't enough just to say that they are dangerous regimes," he told Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican of Nebraska, a fellow Vietnam veteran who worried aloud that Mr. Bush might be stepping into a quagmire like Lyndon B. Johnson in Southeast Asia.

"That action is required doesn't mean that a war is going to start tomorrow, or that we're going to invade anybody," Secretary Powell added. "In fact, it may mean, in the short term, a focus on the policies that we have in place with respect to each of the three countries he mentioned, and other countries that might have been mentioned."

Mr. Powell also faced questioning from the committee's chairman, Senator Joseph R. Biden, Democrat of Delaware, who said he feared that the interim Afghan government could not survive unless the international peacekeeping force in that country was expanded to other areas from its current focus in Kabul only, with or without the help of United States troops. A senior Republican member, Richard Lugar of Indiana, raised similar concerns.

"All of that is under consideration," Mr. Powell told Mr. Biden, while repeating that "the president is quite determined that we not put U.S. combat units on the ground to essentially perform military police and security kinds of functions."