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Powell scoffs at stepdown story

Washington, Aug. 5 (Reuters): US secretary of state Colin Powell yesterday dismissed as “nonsense” a Washington Post report that he and his deputy Richard Armitage planned to step down in early 2005.

“It’s nonsense. I don’t know what they are talking about. I serve at the pleasure of the president,” Powell said according to a state department transcript of an interview with Radio Sawa, a US-funded Arabic broadcast.

“The President and I have not discussed anything other than my continuing to do my job for him and this is just one of those stories that emerge in Washington that reflects nothing more than gossip and the gossip leads to a rash of speculation about who might fill a vacancy that does not exist.” The Post said Armitage recently told national security adviser Condoleezza Rice the two would leave on January 21, 2005, the day after the next presidential inauguration, even if US President George W. Bush is re-elected.

“The story has no substance and the so-called conversation that took place between my deputy, Armitage, and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, did not take place,” Powell said. “And therefore the story has no source or basis in the beginning,” he added.

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