16/11/2004

President Bush pays tribute to Secretary of State Powell

President Bush has paid tribute to his outgoing Secretary of State, Colin Powell, hailing him as "one of the great public servants of our time".

Colin Powell, who submitted his resignation letter to the White House on Friday, confirmed to reporters yesterday that he was resigning his position. He will however continue heading the State Department for some weeks while his replacement, former National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice, goes through the confirmation process.

President Bush described Mr Powell as a "great patriot" who had spent the past four years forging international alliances to help the US prosecute its war against terrorists. Colin Powell had also been a "key architect" of the Middle East peace process which is helping to spread freedom and democracy in that region, Mr Bush said.

He added: "His diplomatic skills also helped to end regional conflicts and lower tensions on the Indian subcontinent. Through his advocacy, he focused the world's attention on the plight of the suffering in Sudan, Liberia, and Haiti.

"Thousands of dedicated foreign policy professionals are grateful for his leadership in modernizing and strengthening the Department of State."

Secretary Powell said yesterday that it had always been his intention to serve just one term in the role and that his departure had been a "mutual agreement" with the president.

Mr Powell told reporters: "It has been my great honour and privilege to have been once again given the opportunity to serve my nation, and I will always treasure the four years that I have spent with President Bush and with the wonderful men and women of the Department of State. I think we have accomplished a great deal."

Before becoming Secretary of State, Colin Powell served as a key aid to the Secretary of Defense and as National Security Advisor. He also spent 35 years in the US Army, serving two combat tours in Vietnam, and rising to the rank of Four-Star General before being elevated to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

But despite having served in such high-profile profile roles in the heart of the US political and military establishment, Colin Powell gave no clue yesterday to what his future plans may be.

In the coming weeks, Mr Powell is scheduled for diplomatic trips to Chile, Egypt and a series meeting with European government leaders in December.

When Condoleeza Rice takes up her new post the State Department in-tray will contain some weighty foreign policy issues – the global war against terror, negotiations in the Middle East, smoothing relations with the EU and with the IAEA, and pursuing Iran over its nuclear programme all demand serious progress if Mr Bush is to call his second term a success.

(gmcg/sp)

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