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Sunday, 17 December, 2000, 12:02 GMT
Bush foreign agenda takes shape
Cheney, Powell, Bush
A working lunch after the appointment of Colin Powell
As President-elect George W Bush continues to put together his new team, he has emphasised that foreign policy must serve American interests.

The president-elect set out his priorities as he named retired general Colin Powell, as his choice for secretary of state.

Colin Powell
Colin Powell: Nominated secretary of state
Mr Bush is expected to make his next major appointment on Sunday, naming another African American, Condoleezza Rice, as national security adviser.

Later he is due to travel to Washington, prior to handover talks with President Bill Clinton on Monday.

Policy shift

Both Colin Powell and Ms Rice served during the presidency of George Bush senior.

Analysts see Ms Rice's selection as the greatest hint yet of a coming shift in US foreign policy.

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

Condoleezza Rice
Will the appointment of Condoleezza Rice mark a shift in foreign policy?
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".

He also reaffirmed his commitment to the controversial missile defence system, which was put on hold by President Clinton.

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

Kweise Mfume, NAACP president
The retired general promised to work with America's allies to strengthen United Nations sanctions against 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 secretary of state - and Mr Bush hopes his appointment will soothe anger among many African-Americans in the wake of the election.

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

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

"I think most Americans will feel good about this choice," he said.

Fast track

Mr Bush has little time to complete his government line-up, as he takes office on 20 January.

However, 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, 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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