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Powell Offers Timetable on "Letterman"

September 26, 2003|Robin Wright

NEW YORK — Secretary of State Colin L. Powell was not only the most sought-after diplomat at the United Nations on Thursday. He also was the hottest entertainment ticket in town -- so popular that most of his staff and the traveling press corps couldn't get tickets to see him tape "Late Show With David Letterman."

It was more press conference than comedy.

Powell faced tough questions on the failure to find Iraq's suspected weapons of mass destruction, the benefits of going to war, the ongoing attacks on U.S. troops, troop morale, the awkwardness of going back to the United Nations to ask for help and the location of ousted President Saddam Hussein.

Powell, a retired four-star general, conceded that the violence in Iraq was "discouraging" and said Hussein clearly had made escape plans before the U.S.-led war. "He's a survivor," Powell said.

Powell even made some of the bigger news of the day while on the show, revealing the timeline for the next big step in handing back power to Iraq.

The United States hopes Iraq can complete a new constitution, the prerequisite for elections and a final transition, in six months, he said.

But Powell deftly dodged questions on other hot topics, from Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark, a retired Army general, to California politics.

Pressed on what he thought of Clark, who served with Powell for 20 years, America's top diplomat said diplomatically that Clark was a "very gifted man."

He recused himself from further questions, saying that he thought his boss, President Bush, would be reelected next year.

-- Robin Wright

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