Colin Powell, who had major differences with hawkish members of President George W. Bush's administration over Iraq, has resigned as US secretary of state, the department said Monday.
The 67-year-old former four star general submitted his resignation to Bush
on Friday, a senior department official told AFP.
The White House said the resignations of four cabinet members would be
announced on Monday but did not name them. White House spokesman Scott
McClellan told reporters the replacements would not be announced on Monday.
US media reported the four were Powell; Agriculture secretary Ann Veneman;
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham; and Education Secretary Rod Paige.
Attorney General John Ashcroft and Commerce Secretary Don Evans have
already announced their departures.
Powell has agreed to stay on at his post until a replacement has been
found, according to the State Department official, who spoke on condition of
His decision to leave will inevitably lead to a new round of speculation
about the new holder of one of the most important jobs in the US
administration. National security advisor Condoleezza Rice has widely been
mentioned as the leading candidate. John Danforth, the US ambassador to the
United Nations, has also been linked to the post.
Powell, who as head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was the military architect
of the 1991 Gulf War effort to force Iraqi forces out of Kuwait, saw a
turbulent four years as secretary of state marked by the September 11, 2001
attacks and the Iraq invasion.
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.
No chemical, biological or nuclear weapons programmes have ever been found
since the ousting of its leader Saddam Hussein, who is now in custody
awaiting trial. Amid widespread chaos in Iraq, Bush has insisted that the
March, 2003 invasion was the right move.
Powell reportedly argued for more prudent moves toward disarming Saddam
during clashes with hawks in the Bush cabinet such as Vice President Dick
Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
But he refused to talk publicly about the tensions or his future
intentions, repeatedly telling reporters: “I serve at the pleasure of the
Powell, a son of Jamaican immigrants, fought in Vietnam and rose to become
a four star general and head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1989 to 1993.
During the first Gulf War he notably pressed President George H. W. Bush not
to overthrow Saddam at the time, for fear of becoming bogged down in a
When he became secretary of state in 2001, Powell became the highest
ranking black in any US administration, a position he said he wanted to
inspire other African-Americans.
Throughout the administration infighting, Powell sought to maintain a
pragmatic multi-lateral diplomacy.
Powell is to leave Wednesday for Chile to attend the Asia-Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC) forum summit from November 19-21. He will also go to an
international conference on Iraq in Cairo on November 22-23.
The State Department said again Monday that Powell wants to meet the new
Palestinian leadership, following the death of veteran Palestinian
figurehead Yasser Arafat. But no date has been announced.