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The BBC's Brian Barron in Washington DC
"From the poorest quarter of New York to the heights of the American establishment"
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Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 07:19 GMT
Bush foreign agenda takes shape
L to R: Vice President-elect Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, GW Bush
A working lunch after the historic Powell appointment
Focusing on foreign policy, US President-elect George W Bush has underlined his commitment to bi-partisanship and co-operation with allies to promote democracy and peace.

"America has unique power and unmatched influence and we will use them in the service of democracy, spreading peace across the world," said Mr Bush.

Colin Powell
Colin Powell: Nominated secretary of state
The president-elect set out his priorities as he named retired general Colin Powell, who served during the presidency of George Bush senior as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as his choice for secretary of state.

Mr Bush is expected to confirm his next major appointment as Condoleezza Rice to be national security adviser. Ms Rice was also an adviser to the former President Bush.

Despite Mr Bush's comments, analysts see her selection as the greatest hint yet of a coming shift in US foreign policy.

Policy shift

Ms Rice sparked alarm among Nato countries by saying Mr Bush would withdraw US forces from the Balkans and leave regional conflicts to local powers.

Condoleezza Rice
Condoleezza Rice: Widely tipped as National Security advisor
Speaking following his appointment, Colin Powell told reporters that the American military presence in the Balkans would be assessed to see if it was "proper".

In accepting the post - which must be ratified by the US Senate - the former general said the administration was taking power in "times of challenge and danger, but we are up to the task".

A BBC correspondent says that while Mr Powell might appear reluctant to commit US forces, he is a firm subscriber to the "speak softly, carry a big stick" doctrine.

For the moment, congratulations are in order - I think most Americans will feel good about this choice

NAACP president
The retired general promised to work with America's allies to re-energise the sanctions regime on Iraq, which has been crumbling in recent months.

Israel received a restated US commitment during the ceremony. Mr Bush said that his administration would continue to pursue efforts towards peace in the Middle East, "based, as any peace must be, on a secure Israel".

During the campaign, foreign affairs was perceived as one of Mr Bush's weak areas, the low point coming when he was unable to name prominent world leaders during a TV interview.

Tactful appointment

Mr Powell is the first black man to serve as secretary of state - and Mr Bush hopes his appointment will soothe anger among many African-Americans in the wake of the election.

US election
Many black voters were left disenchanted with the US Supreme Court
Some civil rights groups allege that ballots went uncounted, and voters were intimidated by police and Republican election officials in several Florida counties.

National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People president Kweisi Mfume congratulated Mr Bush for appointing Mr Powell, but said it was too early to tell how it would be received.

"I think only time will tell," said Mr Mfume. "For the moment, congratulations are in order. I think most Americans will feel good about this choice."

Fast track

Mr Bush has a race against time to complete his government line-up by the time he takes office on 20 January.

But his transition effort received a boost when the Republican Senate Committee Chairman Jesse Helms promised to put Mr Powell's candidacy on a fast-track.

"The Foreign Relations Committee will move with haste to confirm Mr Powell, so that he is available to serve the president on his first day in office," said Mr Helms.

In an effort to heal rifts between Republicans and Democrats exacerbated by five weeks of legal tussling, Mr Bush is thought to be still considering appointing a Democrat to his cabinet.

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See also:

16 Dec 00 | Americas
Colin Powell: Bush's trump card
16 Dec 00 | Americas
In pictures: Gore parties on
16 Dec 00 | UK Politics
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High-tech not high priority for Bush
16 Dec 00 | Americas
Pressure mounts for electoral reform
14 Dec 00 | Entertainment
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Powell's speech - excerpts
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