United Press International
News. Analysis. Insight.
September 2, 2002
Powell's Jo'burg comments draw cheers, jeers
JOHANNESBURG-- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell drew jeers Wednesday for his comments about the Kyoto Protocol and then
cheers for castigating Zimbabwe's president for land-reform policies, during the final day of the U.N. development summit.
The reception of the statement by Powell about Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe's land policies, in which the lead U.S. diplomat
charged that the government-ordered seizures of white-owned farms had taken Zimbabwe to near starvation, was a rare positive
moment in a speech that was often interrupted and barely listened to by the many summit participants who disagree with Washington's
Several observers were escorted from the room during loud hisses directed at Powell as he outlined to the World Summit for
Sustainable Development why the United States was withholding approval of the Kyoto Protocol on global warming.
Powell, appearing at the summit in the place of President George W. Bush, took the brunt of criticism from environmentalists and some
other governments, who blamed the United States for blocking potentially meaningful action regarding subjects such as global warming
and targets for renewable energy use.
The U.S. position on global warming and the Kyoto Protocol, which Washington has rejected, has been its most controversial
environmental stance. Powell addressed the subject by pointing to a $1 billion initiative aimed at developing and deploying new
technologies to combat global warming. But his comments were drowned out by hecklers shouting, "Shame on Bush!"
Powell tried to roll with the punches, telling his critics at one point: "I hear you ... now I ask that you hear me," but it was to no avail. About
midway through his remarks, the jeering became so loud that the chairwoman was forced to pound her gavel and 13 activists were
escorted from the chamber.
Powell used the example of South Africa to make his point, saying that the progress in the country over the past decade proved that the
basis of any progress was freedom. He said that point was dear to the United States.
"The American soul has always harbored deep desires to help people build better lives for themselves and their children," he said.
Powell defended the U.S. opposition to specific targets in the summit's plan of action -- saying that the country planned sound action on
"Plans are good but actions can put clean water in the mouths of thirsty young girls and boys, prevent the transmission of the deadly
AIDS virus from mother to child and preserve the biodiversity of a fragile African ecosystem,'' Powell said.
Environmental activists were critical of Powell's remarks.
"This was the last chance for the United States to stand up and do something good for the environment after 10 days of stalling and
weakening," Sandy Turk from the Rainforest Action Network told United Press International. "Of course, he just stuck with the same tired
themes that show that the country is not interested in environmental protection.
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