by RAY FLEMING l THE only surprise about Colin Powell's resignation as US Secretary of State is that it has been so long coming. Almost from the start of President Bush's first administration he has been the odd man out among the President's senior advisors. He had hardly been a month at the State Department in 2001 before the policy of encouraging South Korea's rapprochement with North Korea, inherited from the Clinton administration and which he supported, was abruptly turned on its head by the President. This rebuff proved to be only the first of a series of open differences between Mr Powell and the White House; in some cases, such as relations with Saudi Arabia in the post 9/11 period, Mr Powell was simply kept out of the loop. His Department was also often at odds with the Pentagon and his relations with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were hardly cordial, especially over post-war policy on Iraq; unfortunately President Bush generally preferred the Pentagon's view to the State Department's, with the dire results that have followed. he nadir of Mr Powell's career as Secretary of State was his presentation at the United Nations of evidence purporting to show that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. The tape recordings, photographs and documents had all been provided by the CIA and the Pentagon but were widely perceived to be flawed and inconclusive, as ultimately it proved to be the case. n other areas of foreign policy Mr Powell travelled incessantly, worked hard, made friends for America and produced some positive results. But his considerable ability could not flourish in an administration whose approach he did not instinctively share. The judgement on this distinguished soldier will probably be that as Secretary of State he was loyal to a fault.

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