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Saturday, 16 February, 2002, 04:55 GMT
Powell's condoms comments draw ire
Colin Powell during the MTV's global forum
Mr Powell is considered liberal in a conservative cabinet
A row has broken out in the United States after Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on the music television network MTV and urged sexually active young people to use condoms to protect themselves against disease.

Conservative politicians and right-wing religious groups were among those who criticised Mr Powell, describing his remarks as irresponsible.

Colin Powell takes a back seat to no one when it comes to abstinence and abstinence education

White House spokesman Ari Fleischer
The critics argued that condom use is not wholly effective against HIV and that people in positions of influence should advocate abstinence.

A White House spokesman said that Mr Powell and President George W Bush held identical views, with both favouring abstinence and health education.

"Colin Powell takes a back seat to no one when it comes to abstinence and abstinence education," White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said.

Mr Powell said in a reply to a question from a young Roman Catholic woman on the MTV show: "In my own judgement condoms are a way to prevent infection and therefore I not only support their use I encourage their use among people who are sexually active and need to protect themselves."

Mr Powell said he respected the opinion of the church, but did not agree with it.

"I certainly respect the views of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church," he said, adding, however, that "in my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection and, therefore, I support their use."

Negative reaction

But conservative and religious associations reacted angrily to his remarks.

"Secretary Powell's remarks are reckless and irresponsible," said Family Research Council President Ken Connor.

He clearly doesn't understand the science regarding condom efficacy

James Dobson
Focus on the Family

"President Bush should repudiate Secretary Powell's comments and publicly exhort him for his irresponsible remarks," he said in a statement.

James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family, also denounced the comments.

"Colin Powell is the secretary of state, not the secretary of health," Mr Dobson said.

"He is talking about a subject he doesn't understand. He clearly doesn't understand the science regarding condom efficacy."

Sandy Rios, the president of Concerned Women for America, echoed similar views.

"He undercut the moral authority of all parents, he embarrassed President Bush and undercut the Administration's policies, and he needs to retract these statements immediately," Ms Rios said.

See also:

15 Feb 02 | Americas
Powell wows MTV audience
21 Jan 02 | From Our Own Correspondent
Travelling with Colin Powell
18 Jan 02 | South Asia
Powell's impact on India and Pakistan
17 Jan 02 | South Asia
Powell boost for new Afghan leader
18 Jan 02 | South Asia
Powell positive over S Asia visit
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