Secretary of State Colin Powell has undergone what the State Department says was successful surgery for prostate cancer at a Washington military hospital. Officials say he is expected to make a full recovery and return to normal duties early in the new year.
The type of cancer Mr. Powell was diagnosed with is slow-moving and easily treatable. And officials say the 66-year-old Secretary of State delayed his surgery for a number of months so that his recovery could occur during the relatively-tranquil year-end holiday period.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said Mr. Powell had "localized" prostate cancer and that the two-hour operation at the Walter Reed Army Hospital went extremely well with no complications.
He said Mr. Powell is unlikely to be away from the State Department very long, and in any event has served notice on his staff that he will be following developments from his hospital room via computer. "We're told that he should probably spend several days in the hospital. Then there will be a period of recuperation at home, where he'll be on a somewhat reduced schedule. He'll certainly be fully back on the job by early in the New Year. But we're also given to expect that he'll be sending us all e-mails and instructions within days," he said.
Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will stand in for Mr. Powell, who was busy with official duties right up until he went into surgery. He spent the entire day Sunday telephoning 23 fellow foreign ministers and other world leaders to discuss the implications of the capture of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Mr. Powell's condition was discovered during a routine physical examination earlier this year but the information was closely-held and officials said President Bush was informed about the pending surgery only about two weeks ago.
Spokesman Boucher said the surgery would have "no bearing" on whether Mr. Powell will stay on as Secretary of State in a second Bush administration, and that he serves "at the pleasure of the president."
There have been media reports that Mr. Powell will step down when Mr. Bush's current term ends in January 2005. But the Secretary, a former Army general and chairman of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff, has declined to discuss his plans publicly.