SECRETARY OF STATE 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've spent with President Bush and with the wonderful men and women of the Department of State. I think we've 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 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 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.
There are many challenges out there. There are many opportunities out there. And I can assure you that I will 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 to two questions, then I do have other things I have to do.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) 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?
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.