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Reaction Mixed Around the World

Some Disappointed by Powell's Departure, Others Welcome It

By Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, November 16, 2004; Page A07

AMMAN, Jordan, Nov. 15 -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's resignation announcement Monday evoked a mixed international reaction of personal sympathy, political disappointment and intense concern over whether his replacement will be another moderate or a hard-line ideologue.

From Paris to Kampala, officials and analysts of U.S. foreign policy said Powell was an honest broker within an administration that was highly unpopular overseas and whose motives have been particularly questioned in Europe and the Middle East.

Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, who was widely admired in Africa, visited a refugee camp in Sudan in June. (State Department Via AP)

Yet even among his admirers, Powell never seemed to measure up to the larger-than-life persona he first brought to the job. Many people said he made little mark on U.S. foreign policy and appeared easily outmaneuvered by more aggressive and ideological members of the Bush team, some of whom may now be in line to succeed him.

Reaction to the announcement varied by region. Some African officials, accustomed to a lack of U.S. interest in their problems, praised Powell for pushing African issues onto the administration's agenda. In the Middle East, where Powell's impassioned argument for war with Iraq before the United Nations cost him many admirers, he was described as mostly ineffectual.

Much of the world's interest on Monday centered on who would follow Powell, though with the strongest personalities of the Bush cabinet still in place, many observers predicted little change in U.S. foreign policy, which has frequently appeared overseas to be dictated by the Oval Office and the Pentagon.

"Most people seem to think Colin Powell was the voice of reason," especially in contrast to other officials such as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, said Abdel Aziz Abu Hamad al-Uwaisheg, a Saudi official of the Gulf Cooperation Council, the alliance of six Persian Gulf states.

"A lot will depend on the choice of replacement," he said. "The president may signal that he will be more hard-line or choose another moderate. But it's all relative since this whole administration is considered quite hostile to Arab interests."

Some in the Middle East even welcomed Powell's resignation, since countries in the region have been almost uniformly disappointed with the Bush administration's foreign policy.

Many remember Powell fondly as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Persian Gulf War, which was supported by a majority of Arab countries. But, more recently, people in the Middle East have had the U.S. invasion of Iraq and what they perceive as unequivocal U.S. support for Israel at the expense of the Palestinians fresh in their minds.

"In the region . . . they thought of him as a man of dialogue, not some tough guy of the American administration," Gebran Tueni, publisher of An-Nahar, Lebanon's most influential daily newspaper, said of Powell.

Throughout Bush's first term, Israeli officials have made no secret of the fact that they deal directly with the White House, often bypassing Powell, whom many Israeli officials consider more sympathetic than Bush to Palestinian positions.

"The policy of the administration is being laid down by the president. I don't think it's going to have any effect on American policy in the Middle East," one Israeli official said of Powell's resignation.

Some Palestinian officials expressed disappointment that the positions of Powell and the State Department were frequently undercut by the White House.

"Mr. Powell has my highest respect and deepest appreciation," said Saeb Erekat, the Palestinians' chief negotiator with Israel. "I really hope that in the second term of President Bush we will witness a very positive effort to reconcile the two-state solution."

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