August 4, 2003 at 1:43 PM CDT - Updated June 23 at 6:41 AM
Secretary of State Colin Powell and his top deputy have told the White House they will not serve a second term if President Bush is re-elected, The Washington Post reported.
But a State Department spokesman vigorously denied the story on Monday. "There's no basis to the story at all," said Philip T. Reeker. "There was no such conversation."
Meanwhile, at the White House, Michael Anton, a spokesman for the National Security Council, said "the conversation didn't happen."
Citing "sources familiar with the conversation," the paper said in a story for Monday's editions that Powell deputy Richard L. Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice that he and Powell will leave on Jan. 21, 2005, the day after the next presidential inauguration.
The Post said Powell has indicated to associates that a promise to his wife, rather than any policy disagreements with others in the administration, is a key factor in his intention to serve only one term.
Administration officials with possible knowledge of Powell's plans could not be reached Sunday evening, but it has been widely anticipated that he would serve only one term.
That would follow the pattern of recent administrations. Only George Shultz under President Reagan has served more than one term in recent decades. He took office midway through Reagan's first term and then stayed on for the second.
Powell was widely touted as a potential Republican presidential candidate after retiring as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Clinton administration, but announced he would not run even as polls indicated he had overwhelming popularity with American voters.
Although never publicly confirmed, it was widely reported at the time that Powell was bowing to the wishes of his wife that he not be a candidate.
Powell, who turned 66 in April, has consistently declined to respond to speculation about how long he planned to head the State Department, but has made clear that he has many interests beyond government service, specifically a commitment to improving education opportunities for black Americans.
"I serve at the pleasure of the president," he said last month. "That's the only answer I've ever given to that question, no matter what form it comes in."
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved.