Report: Powell to step aside as secretary of state if Bush wins second term

Monday, August 4th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Secretary of State Colin Powell and his top deputy have told the White House they will not serve a second term if President Bush is re-elected, it was reported Monday.

Officials at the White House and the State Department denied the the report in The Washington Post, saying no such conversation had taken place between Powell and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice. But the officials refused to speculate about whether Powell would serve in a second Bush term.

Powell and Deputy Secretary of State Richard L. Armitage planned to talk with Bush in Texas Tuesday and Wednesday for a long-planned series of meetings, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

He denied that Powell and Armitage ever told Rice they won't serve after 2005, saying no such conversation had taken place. The Post reported Monday that both men plan to step down in January 2005, even if Bush is re-elected.

``Secretary Powell and Deputy Secretary Armitage are outstanding members of the president's team and highly valued members,'' McClellan told reporters in Crawford, Texas, where Bush is starting a month-long break.

He sidestepped questions about whether Bush wanted them for a second term, or about whether they would be willing to serve, saying it was premature with the election almost a year and a half away.

Powell and Armitage ``serve at the pleasure of the president and are enjoying the job they are doing,'' McClellan said. He chalked speculation about a second term up to the ``rumor mill.''

Their talks at dinner at Bush's ranch Tuesday night and at a meeting Wednesday would deal with a range of policy priorities, McClellan said.

Citing ``sources familiar with the conversation,'' the Post said in Monday's editions that Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell would leave on Jan. 21, 2005, the day after the next presidential inauguration.

But the No. 2 spokesman at the State Department vigorously denied the story on Monday.

``There's no basis to the story at all,'' said Philip T. Reeker. ``There was no such conversation. It must be August.''

Reeker, in a subsequent statement, denied there was such a conversation or that there was any basis for the report. ``As Secretary Powell has always said, he and Deputy Secretary Armitage serve at the pleasure of the president and will continue to do so,'' he said.

At the White House, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said, ``The conversation didn't happen.''

The Post said Powell has indicated to associates that a promise to his wife, rather than any policy disagreements with others in the administration, is a key factor in his intention to serve only one term.

His departure would follow the pattern of recent administrations. Only George Shultz under President Reagan has served more than one term in recent decades. He took office midway through Reagan's first term and then stayed on for the second.