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Powell wades into campaign discord

WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell ventured into the thick of the presidential campaign yesterday by challenging John F. Kerry's attacks on President Bush's leadership of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

At a news conference in Atlanta, Powell disagreed with Kerry's contention in Thursday night's presidential debate that Bush missed an opportunity to capture Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

He also dismissed the Democratic candidate's suggestion that Powell had been compelled to apologize for asserting at the United Nations that Saddam Hussein of Iraq had amassed hidden stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction.

Then, in Washington, Powell took on Kerry over his assertion that Bush had sidestepped US allies in going to war in Iraq and in his overall approach to world problems.

"I don't accept that characterization," Powell said in response to a reporter's question as Powell escorted the Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht of Belgium from the State Department after a 30-minute meeting.

In the Bush-Kerry debate Thursday night, which dealt solely with foreign policy, Kerry described the president as a failed leader for invading Iraq without the support of most US allies.

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