US President George W. Bush plans to nominate National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice as secretary of state in place of Colin Powell after his resignation, two senior administration officials said on Monday.
Bush plans to turn to deputy national security adviser Stephen Hadley to replace Rice, who is one of the president's closest advisers and confidants, said the officials, who spoke on condition they not be named.
Rice, who turned 50 on Sunday, had been tipped as a leading contender to succeed Powell, who resigned in a letter to Bush sent Friday but is not expected to leave his post until his replacement wins Senate confirmation.
A third official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said Bush could announce the move as early as yesterday.
Hadley, who advised Bush on foreign policy during the 2000 campaign and took office in January 2001, was also the favorite to take over as national security adviser.
Rice and Hadley held foreign policy posts under Bush's father, former president George Bush.
Meanwhile, world leaders lavished praise on Powell as he stepped down as US secretary of state, hailing his efforts to build international consensus and pledging to work closely with his replacement.
The outpouring reflected Powell's standing as a balanced, multilateralist force in a US administration that many, particularly in Europe and China, regarded as too willing to act on its own.
"Mr. Powell showed his understanding of our country, and made so many efforts to promote friendship," Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said yesterday. "I'd like to express my heartfelt respect for his efforts and achievements."
Koizumi, a steadfast supporter of Washington's policy in Iraq, said that "whoever takes over the position, the importance of the US-Japan relationship will not change."
Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing (
"No matter what happens we will continue to care for and support the development of an amicable cooperative relationship between China and the United States," Li said in comments aired in Hong Kong yesterday.
The expressions of respect for Powell were similarly warm elsewhere, among those who support the US operation in Iraq and those who are opposed.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who worked together with Powell on the Iraq War, said the former general had made the transition "from being a great soldier to being a great statesman and diplomat."
"He has been in [his job] in perhaps the most difficult and fraught period in terms of the world situation that one can think of outside serious wartime, because of what happened on Sept. 11, 2001," Straw said.
In France, an ally whose ties with the US were badly strained over Iraq, Foreign Minister Michel Barnier praised Powell's skills as a diplomat -- matching the feelings of many French that the American made the argument for war in Iraq while privately agreeing with Paris.
"For the last eight months, I have had friendly, frank relations with him," Barnier told Europe-1 radio. "He is a man who is a true professional of diplomacy."