WASHINGTON — Trying to calm a charged atmosphere, Secretary of State Colin Powell said Tuesday the United States has no plans to go to war with Syria or anyone else to bring democracy to a totalitarian state.
“Iraq was a unique case, where it wasn’t just a matter of a dictator being there,” Powell said at a news conference with foreign reporters.
“There is no war plan to go and attack someone else, either for the purpose of overthrowing their leadership or for the purpose of imposing democratic values.”
“Democratic values have to ultimately come from within a society and within a nation,” he said, tempering heated rhetoric from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and some other senior U.S. officials.
Having declared war against terror worldwide, singled out Iraq, Iran and North Korea as an “axis of evil,” and then gone to war with Iraq, President Bush has raised fears abroad, particularly in Europe and the Middle East, that the world’s only superpower would use its muscle freely against dictatorial regimes.
Accusations that Syria provided Iraq with war material, gave haven to senior Iraqi and Baath party officials and permitted Syrian fighters to join the war against the U.S.-led coalition fueled those apprehensions.
And while generally avoiding the harsh words, Powell renewed the accusations against Syria on Tuesday.
But he rejected any suggestion the administration had a list of countries against whom it might send troops again.
“There is no list,” he said, even as he registered unhappiness with some policies of Iran as well as Syria.
At the White House, Bush met separately with Powell and with Rumsfeld and took a 20-minute telephone call from French President Jacques Chirac, their first conversation since Feb. 7.
They discussed Syria and the situation in Iraq, and they agreed Syria should not harbor Iraqi leaders, presidential spokesman Ari Fleischer said.
Chirac also told Bush he wanted to play a “pragmatic role in reconstruction events in Iraq,” Fleischer said, offering no details.