U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, recovering quickly from prostate cancer surgery on Monday, is back in frequent telephone contact with his staff. He is expected to return to full duties at the State Department early in the new year.
Aides say Mr. Powell had his first post-operative phone discussion with Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage only a few hours after the Monday-morning surgery. And State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says he has been in frequent touch with staff members since then from his room at Washington's Walter Reed Army Hospital.
The 66-year-old secretary of state is recovering from what is described as a successful a two-hour operation to remove his cancerous prostate. The State Department says the cancer was "localized" and non-life-threatening and the secretary is expected to make a full recovery.
He learned about his condition a few months ago, but delayed the surgery so his recovery would take place during the relatively quiet holiday period. A senior official here said he will likely leave the hospital in "a couple of days" and return to full duties at the beginning of the new year.
In a departure from recent practice, Mr. Powell did not designate Mr. Armitage as acting secretary of state. But Mr. Armitage, a close friend of the secretary, has been empowered to sign documents and otherwise preside over the department in Mr. Powell's absence.
Though he is discussing department business with staffers by phone, Mr. Powell is leaving diplomatic contacts to his deputy.
Officials say Mr. Armitage has taken "best-wishes" calls to the secretary from several of his foreign minister colleagues, including those from China, Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.