U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has announced his resignation. He is expected to step down sometime in January after his replacement has been named and approved by U.S. lawmakers.
Secretary Powell says he submitted his resignation in a letter to President Bush last Friday: "It has been my great honor and privilege to have been once again given the opportunity to serve my nation and I will always treasure the four years I have spent with President Bush and the wonderful men and women of the Department of State."
Mr. Powell is expected to leave sometime in the next two months. Until then, he says, he is still fully engaged in his work as Secretary of State. "We have a full end of year agenda in front of us, beginning with a trip to Chile on Wednesday, and then off to Egypt and other places, and then a full series of European and other meetings in December."
Mr. Powell says much has been accomplished during his four-year tenure, but he lists some of the challenges that will face his successor: "We have to make sure we continue to pursue the global war against terror. We have to consolidate the very significant gains we've seen in Afghanistan. And, we have to make sure we defeat this insurgency in Iraq. A new opportunity has presented itself in the Middle East, and President Bush has spoken to this, and, hopefully, in the next few weeks, I'll be able to see how much potential there is in this new opportunity in the Middle East, with the passing of (Palestinian) Chairman (Yasser) Arafat."
Mr. Powell says the nuclear threats in Iran and North Korea should also top the agenda for his successor.
Colin Powell most likely will be best remembered for his impassioned speech at the United Nations in February of 2003 in defense of the Bush administration's justification for waging war in Iraq. He was often reported to be at odds with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld over U.S. strategy in Iraq.
The news of his resignation is not a total surprise. The 67-year-old former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff was widely expected to step down before the start of a second Bush term.
Colin Powell has been one of the most popular administration officials. He was seen as a moderate voice and skilled diplomat.