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.
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."
In Europe, Powell was widely seen as an ally and proponent of a multilateral approach to international issues. His resignation brought expressions of regret from some capitals, where officials were hoping the second Bush administration would take steps to enhance international cooperation.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said it had been "a joy" to work with Powell, whom he called "a man of utmost integrity" and "huge fun," wire services reported.
In Germany, Defense Minister Peter Struck described Powell as "pleasant to talk to and a reliable partner in conversation in the area of defense policy."
In France, there was no immediate official reaction. Powell had clashed with the former foreign minister, Dominique de Villepin, over the Iraq war and was widely seen as having lost influence in battles with others in the Bush administration.
News reports of the resignation highlighted Powell's Feb. 5, 2003, speech to the United Nations on Iraq's weapons capability. The testimony turned out to be inaccurate, damaging Powell's credibility among the French.
The left-leaning newspaper Liberation said the choice of a successor would indicate whether Bush intends to "pursue further the policy advocated by the neoconservatives, or favor a return to a foreign policy of an outstretched hand."
In Africa, officials and observers said many people had been elated to see an African American rise to the highest ranks of the U.S. government but were later disappointed that Powell failed to show the deep concern for Africa that they expected of him.
At first, "Africa perceived him as one of its own sons in high office, but he's been almost aloof," said Richard Kaavuma, a reporter at the Observer, a weekly newspaper in the Ugandan capital, Kampala.
Brig. Gen. Festus Okonkwo, a Nigerian who heads the African Union mission in the war-ravaged Darfur region of western Sudan, keeps a framed photograph of Powell inside his trailer. He said he flinched as he heard the news on satellite television.
"I felt he really was someone who cared about Africa," Okonkwo said. In September, Powell visited Darfur and declared that the violence there constituted genocide. Okonkwo said the visit "sent a very important message to African leaders. . . . We wouldn't even have furniture without Powell's demand that we be funded."
Mohamed Abdel Gaffer, a top official in Sudan's Foreign Ministry, said that he disagreed with Powell's assessment of the war in Darfur as genocide but that he respected him for visiting Darfur and for pushing the peace process in a separate civil war.
"Despite our differences, we all thought he was a good man to have in power," Gaffer said.
Correspondents Molly Moore in Jerusalem, Emily Wax in Nyala, Sudan, and Keith Richburg in Paris contributed to this report.