Powell exit may give Bush new impulse
The imminent departure as secretary of state of Colin Powell will enable the US president to reinvigorate his foreign policy under Condoleezza Rice, British commentators agreed on Tuesday.
For much of the press Rice, currently President George W Bush's national security adviser, is all but assured of stepping into Powell's shoes when the soldier-cum-diplomat leaves office.
"General Powell sounds the retreat," wrote the Financial Times, arguing he had become "quite ineffective" because of his key policy differences with the White House.
"He had increasingly lost influence over the diplomacy he was supposed to direct," the business daily added.
The Independent thought Powell "enjoyed deep respect at home and abroad and was seen as the most senior moderate voice in an administration packed with hardliners," but that his departure would not fundamentally change US foreign policy, which is largely dictated by Bush.
"The appointment of Condoleezza Rice, as now seems the most likely option, suggests continuity but without the dissenting voice that the state department so frequently provided in the first term," agreed the left-leaning Guardian.
The conservative Daily Telegraph was more forthright: "Powell's departure gives Bush a fresh chance" to succeed abroad, it wrote.
"Whoever is chosen, the announcement of Mr Powell's retirement gives Mr Bush (...) the chance to appoint a secretary of state more in tune with his unique blend of social conservatism and foreign policy radicalism.
"If that results in a more coherent face being presented to the outside world, Washington and its allies, still facing enormous challenges in the Middle East, will be the winners".
The Times said Powell's decision was expected, and pointed to a dual image he had in the United States and world outside.
"General Powell has proved to be the figure in the Bush administration most fluent with audiences outside America," it wrote.
"That is not, however, to conclude that his private views were the same as those of his French or German counterparts."