- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 18, 2001

Missile defenses will be aggressively pursued and an international criminal court quickly abandoned under the new Bush administration, Secretary of State-designate Colin Powell told a Senate confirmation hearing yesterday.

Lawmakers from both parties heaped praise on the retired Army general and former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the daylong hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is expected to produce a unanimous recommendation to confirm Mr. Powell as early as today.

"This is one of those easy days," said temporary committee Chairman Joseph R. Biden Jr., Delaware Democrat. Sen. Jesse Helms, the North Carolina Republican who will resume the chairmanship next week, said President-elect George W. Bush had "hit a home run" in choosing Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell offered the most detailed look to date at Mr. Bush's priorities in virtually every sector of the globe, saying the new president intends to conduct an engaged, focused foreign policy closely tied to the country's vital interests.

"We must be involved according to our national interests and not in some haphazard way that seems more dictated by the 'crisis du jour' than by serious, thoughtful foreign policy," Mr. Powell said, echoing a criticism many Republicans have leveled at the Clinton administration in recent years.

Mr. Powell, 63, forecast sharp breaks with the outgoing administration on missile defenses, which Mr. Bush supports, and on a treaty to establish an International Criminal Court.

President Clinton signed the court treaty with serious reservations on New Year's Eve, saying the United States hoped to modify the accord in subsequent negotiations.

But Mr. Powell, who echoed fears of a number of Republican senators that U.S. troops may find themselves subject to the court in future missions, said Mr. Bush won't be following Mr. Clinton's lead.

"I don't think you should be standing on your tippy-toes waiting for the Bush administration to ask for any movement toward ratification of the treaty," Mr. Powell said.

Mr. Powell predicted there would be a good deal of continuity, at least initially, in several areas, including the cautious rapprochement with North Korea, support for a huge drug-fighting aid package to Colombia, an emphasis on human rights in foreign policy, backing for a Middle East peace deal and support for expanding NATO.

On another sensitive subject, Mr. Powell said the Bush administration would consult fully with its allies before deciding whether to reduce U.S. troop deployments in Kosovo and Bosnia. Condoleezza Rice, Mr. Bush's top national security nominee, proposed during the campaign that the United States turn over Balkan peacekeeping to the Europeans.

Despite having been in the private sector for the past seven years, Mr. Powell remains one of the most admired figures in America, according to polls. He served on a number of corporate boards and earned more than $6.7 million for paid speeches last year alone.

Mr. Powell, who if confirmed would be the first black ever to be secretary of state, was questioned most closely about the national missile defense idea, designed to protect U.S. territory from ballistic missiles launched by rogue nations such as North Korea and Iraq.

Russia and China have opposed the idea, saying it would undermine their own nuclear deterrent, and many NATO allies have worried that the system could prove destabilizing.

Mr. Powell said the Bush team planned extensive consultations with its European allies and with Moscow and Beijing, even as U.S. military planners proceed aggressively with testing. Mr. Clinton had deferred a decision, citing technical and diplomatic problems with the idea.

Mr. Powell acknowledged doubts about the idea abroad, but added: "Sometimes you have to go through these political barriers and these barriers of understanding if you think you've got a system that really does make sense. It's your obligation to sell it."

Mr. Powell said that the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile (ABM) treaty was "no longer relevant" to today's strategic situation, and that the United States should abandon the treaty if Russia refuses to allow major modifications to the pact.

Miss Rice, in a speech to the U.S. Institute of Peace yesterday, said Mr. Bush was not seeking a tougher stance with Moscow.

"I don't think words like a 'harder line' or a 'more confrontational line' with Russia characterize [Mr. Bush's] thinking," she said.

Mr. Bush has "clearly said he wants a fruitful, professional relationship with Russia," Miss Rice said.

• Ben Barber contributed to this article.

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