WASHINGTON (AFP) -
Secretary of State Colin Powell, who battled
with Bush administration hawks over the Iraq war,
resigned and senior officials said National
Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice would take his
Powell was the most
senior of four members of President George W.
Bushís cabinet to quit on November 15.
Bush, who won
reelection this November, accepted the resignation
of the former top general who directed the 1991
war against Iraq but was only a lukewarm supporter
of last yearís invasion to oust Saddam Hussein.
administration officials said the president would
name his National Security Adviser, Rice, to
replace Powell. They said the announcement came on
Bush plans to turn to
Deputy National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley to
replace Rice, who is one of the presidentís
closest advisers and confidants, said the
officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Rice, who was 50 on
November 14, has been tipped for months as a
leading contender to succeed Powell. She is a
fluent Russian speaker and an expert on arms
Hadley, who advised
Bush on foreign policy during the 2000 election
campaign and took office in January 2001, was also
the favorite to take over as national security
Powell indicated that
he has been in longstanding discussions with the
president about leaving.
"As we have discussed
in recent months, I believe that now that the
election is over, the time has come for me to step
down as Secretary of State and return to private
life," Powell, 67, said in a letter to Bush.
Deputy Secretary of
State Richard Armitage, 59, was also likely to
step down, officials said.
The White House also
announced the departure of Agriculture Secretary
Ann Veneman, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and
Education Secretary Rod Paige. Attorney General
John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans in
But Powell has
created the greatest stir, depriving the
administration of a highly regarded voice on the
international scene at a time when Bush hoped to
mend fences after the Iraq war and revive Middle
East peace talks.
Bush described Powell
as "a soldier, a diplomat, a civic leader, a
statesman and a great patriot," and praised his
work over the past four years.
Powell "is one of the
great public servants of our time," Bush said in a
Tributes also flowed
in from around the world.
UN Secretary General
Kofi Annan had a "very warm working relationship"
with Powell and especially appreciated "support
for the United Nations and for multilateral
approaches to problem-solving," said Annan
spokesman Fred Eckhard.
Minister Tony Blair called Powell "a remarkable
man who has been a good friend to this country
over a very long period." German Foreign Minister
Joschka Fischer also praised his countryís
cooperation with Powell.
Powell is the son of
Jamaican immigrants who rose to become a four star
general and then the highest ranking African
American to serve in the US government. As Rice is
also black the changeover will again be a first in
US administration history.
The timing of the
resignation announcement was unexpected, as Powell
plans to visit the Middle East after the death of
Palestinian patriarch Yasser Arafat.
"I expect to act
fully as secretary of state until I do leave. I
will be working hard until the very, very end," he
As head of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff, Powell was the military architect
of the 1991 Gulf War effort to force Iraqi forces
out of Kuwait. He saw a turbulent four years as
secretary of state marked by the September 11,
2001 attacks and the Iraq invasion.
Pursuing a pragmatic
policy of multilateral diplomacy, Powell
reportedly clashed frequently with administration
hardliners such as Vice President Dick Cheney and
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld who favored
preemptive military action.
Many reports said
Powell had felt personally wounded after giving a
presentation to the UN Security Council on
February 5, 2003 on the US case for an invasion of
Iraq because of weapons of mass destruction.
biological or nuclear weapons programs have been