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US Secretary of State Colin Powell Resigns

On-The-Record Briefing


Secretary Colin L. Powell
Washington, DC
November 15, 2004

(1:05 p.m. EST)

SECRETARY POWELL: Well, good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. As you know from the White House announcement earlier today, I submitted my resignation as Secretary of State to President Bush on 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 that I have spent with President Bush and with the wonderful men and women of the Department of State. I think we have accomplished a great deal.

My purpose here today is not to give you a listing of what we have done over the last four years, but to just take note of the fact that in recent weeks and months, President Bush and I have talked about foreign policy and we've talked about what to do at the end of the first term. It has always been my intention that I would serve one term.

And after we had had a chance to have good and fulsome discussions on it, we came to the mutual agreement that it would be appropriate for me to leave at this time.

Now, I'm not leaving today. I just offered my resignation and I would expect to act fully as Secretary of State until the day that I do leave, and I suspect that will be a number of weeks or a month or two as my replacement goes through the confirmation process.

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. And I fully intend for the Department to work as hard as it has in recent years to push forward the President's foreign policy agenda. Many challenges out there, but many opportunities out there, and I can assure you that I'll be working hard until the very, very end.

And I thank President Bush and I thank the American people for giving me this opportunity to serve the nation once again.

I'll take one or two questions, then I do have other things I have to do.

Barry.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, I have one or two questions. Why now, but you sort of answered that. Secondly, or firstly, what do you think are the biggest pieces of unfinished business, business that has to be addressed, maybe on an urgent basis?

SECRETARY POWELL: We have to make sure that 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. I think a new opportunity has presented itself in the Middle East and President Bush has spoken to this, and hopefully over 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 Chairman Arafat.

And beyond that, I think we have to just keep working on the broad agenda that we have had for the past four years, strengthening our alliances. We have solid alliances in Asia, with Japan and South Korea and the Philippines and Thailand and Australia; make sure that we use our alliances in Asia and the partnerships we have in Asia to keep pressing to find a solution to the North Korean nuclear program. We have to work with our European Union friends and with the IAEA to find a solution to the Iranian nuclear program, and we have seen a little bit of progress, hopefully, over the last 24 hours.

The President also has an active agenda with respect to trade, open trade, with respect to the Millennium Challenge Account and development funding, going after HIV/AIDS, building on the partnerships and alliances that we have around the world. We had some difficulties with some nations in Europe last week -- last year over Iraq and we are getting rid of those differences and coming together again, as evidenced by the fact that NATO is now undertaking a mission in support of the Iraqi people.

And so I think there are still challenges out there, but I think there are far more opportunities out there. We've got good relations with China, the best, perhaps, in decades, good relations with India, with Pakistan, with the Russian Federation. And all of this, I think, is a result of our foreign policy efforts over the last four years under President Bush's leadership.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, --

SECRETARY POWELL: Let me go back to Steve.

Steve. Did you have your hand up, Steve? No? Yes?

QUESTION: Let me follow-up on Barry's question about the timing, be more specific, when you said that in recent weeks and months you have been discussing with President Bush this prospect. Can you be a little bit more detailed about when it was decided and when you told him?

SECRETARY POWELL: I meet with the President almost every day in some form of a meeting and at least once a week we have our private time. And in the course of the year, frankly, we have talked about the second term. And I have always indicated to him that I thought I would serve for one term. And as we got closer to the election and the immediate aftermath of the election, it seemed the appropriate time and we were in mutual agreement that it was the appropriate time for me to move on.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

QUESTION: Just to follow up.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary --

SECRETARY POWELL: Follow up.

QUESTION: Did you offer to stay for a little while, some period of months or something, and did the President just choose to say, let's do the letter now?

SECRETARY POWELL: I made no offer. We had pretty much come to our mutual agreement without anybody having to make any offer, counteroffers, anything like that. We knew where we were heading.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POWELL: Yes.

MR. BOUCHER: Finish up now.

QUESTION: Do you plan on visiting the Palestinian territories, sir, in the next week or so? And how effective do you think you can be in bringing the process back into track?

SECRETARY POWELL: I'm still working on my schedule, so I don't have an announcement for you now. But I'm meeting with Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom this afternoon, so I will remain engaged either here or by telephone or in the region. And of course, when I'm in Sharm el-Sheikh, I'll have the opportunity to see a number of Arab leaders but I don't have a complete schedule in place yet.

I think I have time for one more.

Tammy.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, of all the things you've done in government --

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, to what extent do you feel that your resignation now will affect your ability to carry out what you intend to carry out over the next few weeks, and what do you intend to do next?

SECRETARY POWELL: With respect to the first question, I'm still the Secretary of State, and as President Bush has made it clear, I operate with his full authority. And so, I think that will be recognized by the people that I deal with around the world and I have good relations with most of the leaders in the nations that I will be working with and visiting, so I think I'll be able to be quite effective for the remaining period of my term.

And what am I going to do next? I don't know.

Okay. Arshad.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, of all the things you've done in government, as Secretary of State, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, National Security Advisor, two combat tours in Vietnam, what has been the most satisfying experience of your government service and what has been your greatest regret?

SECRETARY POWELL: I have avoided assiduously over the many years of my career to sort of single out one being more important or best than the other. Each and every one of the things that I have done in a career of service that now is almost 40 years, they all were important, they all had meaning to me, they all in some way or another, in my judgment, contributed to the welfare of our nation, whether it was being a second lieutenant in Germany or being the Secretary of State.

The greatest pleasure comes from working with likeminded people in all of the organizations I have been a part of serving the nation. In every one of these jobs there have been high points and low points, and what you have to learn to do in government, or in life, is to work through problems, seize the opportunities as they come along, deal with the crises and challenges as they come along, and that's always the way I've tried to live my life in public service.

And the greatest privilege I've had over the last four years is to be the leader of tens of thousands of wonderful employees of this Department, whether they're Civil Servants, Foreign Service Officers, management specialists, Foreign Service Nationals, who work so hard on the front lines of freedom and the front lines of our foreign policy, who are at risk every single day and serve our nation so proudly. And it has been a privilege for me to have been given the opportunity to lead them for these last four years, and I will lead them up until the day I depart.

Thank you.
2004/1232
[End]

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