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Shift on way as Powell resigns

Rice expected to take post; 3 others quit

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and three other members of the Bush Cabinet announced their resignations yesterday, clearing the way for a broad transformation, particularly in the foreign policy power structure, as President Bush builds his second-term governing team.

Powell, a highly popular international figure but often a lone voice of caution within the administration, suggested he had not been encouraged to stay beyond the first term.

''It has always been my intention that I would serve one term," Powell told reporters, saying he had discussed his departure with Bush several times before formally tendering his resignation last Friday. ''We were in mutual agreement that it was the appropriate time for me to move on."

An aide said Powell would have considered staying, but that Bush did not request it. White House advisers said they expected Bush to name national security adviser Condoleezza Rice to replace Powell as early as today.

In rapid succession, Bush has accepted resignations from six members of his original team over the last two weeks -- a reshuffling that advisers anticipated after the election, but also a rare opportunity for the balance of power to tip in an administration where conservatives and moderates have frequently clashed. With Powell gone, neoconservative advocates of the war in Iraq appeared poised to consolidate some of their strength, although advisers cautioned it could take up to two months for the shape of the new foreign policy team to become clear.

In naming Rice, Bush would be installing the closest of his allies at the State Department and further strengthening the role of administration hawks for the next phase of the fight against terrorism.

Perhaps more importantly, advisers said, the turnover would allow Bush to exert greater control over a foreign policy apparatus still largely run by career officers -- not only at State but also at the Central Intelligence Agency, where mounting feuds between Bush appointees and longtime officials over policy and protocol have erupted into public view recently, and yesterday led two senior career officials to quit.

Bush, in a statement yesterday, described Powell as ''one of the great public servants of our time."

''He is a soldier, a diplomat, a civic leader, a statesman, and a great patriot," Bush said. ''He will be missed."

But neither Bush nor Powell mourned the split, further evidence of their cordial but tense relationship following four rocky years of disagreements over Iraq and the Middle East that often played out in anonymous leaks to the press. For Bush, who regards loyalty as among the most important traits in an ally, the selection of Rice to replace Powell is expected to eliminate one of the few sources of discord in his governing team, further unifying the so-called ''Bush Doctrine" under a single point of view shared by Rice, Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and many of their advisers.

Domestically, in filling the other seats vacated yesterday, Bush is also expected to keep close allies at his side, though the issues at hand often assume a lower profile.

The outgoing team that resigned yesterday laid down some historical markers: Both Powell and Education Secretary Rod Paige were the first African-Americans to serve in their respective posts. Ann M. Veneman, the Agriculture secretary, was the first woman in that job. And Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham will be the longest-serving official in that role, if he serves through the end of this year.

Over the last four years, Abraham never achieved the central Bush policy objective on energy issues, passage of a sweeping energy bill that would provide billions in tax credits and subsidies to the energy industry and explore new sources of domestic energy. But Abraham mostly avoided blame for the stalled measure, which was shepherded instead by Cheney.

Abraham, 52, a one-term Republican senator from Michigan who lost a reelection bid in 2000, is expected to stay in Washington as an attorney in private practice.

Paige, 71, is credited with overseeing the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, an education accountability measure seen as a centerpiece of the Bush domestic policy from the first term. Administration officials said Margaret Spellings, a longtime Bush adviser, is in line to be Paige's successor.

Possible successors to Veneman, 55, included a White House farm adviser and former Democratic Representative Charles W. Stenholm of Texas, who lost his seat two weeks ago.

In addition to the four departures announced yesterday, Bush has also lost his first-term Commerce Secretary, Don Evans, and Attorney General John Ashcroft. Bush has nominated White House counsel Alberto Gonzales to succeed Ashcroft.

By the inauguration on Jan. 20, Bush is likely to have replaced more than half his 15-member Cabinet, an especially significant overhaul after a static four-year stretch that saw relatively few resignations and only one apparent firing, of Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill.

But in a tightly controlled administration that drives policy directly from the West Wing, only certain departures seemed likely to make a visible difference. Such was the case with Powell, whose exit was lamented by supporters at home and abroad just as the Middle East peace process he had hoped to champion took a significant turn, following the death of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

''Secretary Powell's departure is a loss to the moderate internationalist voices in the Bush administration," said New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, former UN ambassador under President Clinton. Senator Joe Biden of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said that ''even after four difficult years in a bitterly divided administration, Colin Powell leaves the State Department with his head held high and an unmatched reputation for integrity and wisdom."

Powell, 67, said he would continue in his job until a successor is found. Once considered a potential candidate for president, the retired four-star general sounded uncertain about his future plans, and declined to pinpoint a moment of great success or disappointment over the course of his career.

After Powell's announcement, attention will now almost certainly turn to the future of Rumsfeld, the combative political veteran who is already serving his second tour in that job.

Speculation is widespread throughout the administration that Rumsfeld will depart after the January elections in Iraq, creating another power vacuum for Bush to fill -- almost certainly with another hawkish ally, perhaps even a Democrat such as Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who firmly backed the war in Iraq despite his other disagreements with the president he once ran against.

Lieberman's aides did not respond to messages asking whether the Connecticut senator, who was the vice presidential nominee in the 2000 election, would be willing to serve under Bush. 

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, outside the Oval Office in May.
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell and National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, outside the Oval Office in May. (AP Photo)
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