U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell Thursday rejected published suggestions he might be considering resigning because of policy disputes with other senior members of the Bush administration. Speculation about a rift between Mr. Powell and the White House flared again after a controversial administration decision this week withdrawing U.S. support for the United Nations Population Fund.
Mr. Powell says he is mystified by the recurrence of news articles suggesting fundamental differences between him and the White House on key foreign policy issues.
And he is flatly rejecting the idea that he might resign over the latest alleged conflict, over the administration's decision to halt U.S. financial support for he U.N. Population Fund.
The secretary of state, considered a moderate within a conservative administration, had in the past expressed support for the U.N. agency and its family-planning programs around the world.
But the State Department, capping an administration policy review, announced Tuesday it was withdrawing its $34-million U.S. funding commitment from the agency this year because of a finding that it supported coercive Chinese population-control practices that many U.S. conservatives say include forced abortions.
In a talk with reporters Thursday, Mr. Powell said he stood behind, and in fact was the one to sign off on, the administration decision. He said a U.S. fact-finding panel that went to China in May returned with evidence that U.N. supported programs there violate the 1985 Kemp-Kasten law from Congress.
"We understand the importance of these kinds of activities. But in this case, because of Chinese government policies in some places in China that penalized those who are having a child by causing them to pay a fine of two to three times their annual salary: we found that to be a coercive policy, and put the program as inconsistent with the requirements of Kemp-Kasten," Mr. Powell said.
The secretary stressed that the funds being withdrawn from the U.N. Population Fund were being re-directed to similar programs run by the U.S. Agency for International Development and that overall U.S. support for family planning now is higher than it was under the Clinton administration.
Mr. Powell has also been reported at odds with administration colleagues on other foreign policy issues including his advocacy of a ministerial level Middle East peace conference this summer, an idea downplayed by the White House.
In his remarks Thursday, the secretary said he was at a loss to explain the persistence of reporting about his possible resignation, which he suggested would continue despite whatever he might say to discourage the notion.