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Powell's wife 'said she'd leave' if he ran for president

ALMA Powell, wife of Colin Powell, the US Secretary of State, stopped her husband becoming president by threatening to leave him if he ran for the White House, according to a new book.

"If you run, I'm gone. You will have to do it alone," she is said to have told Mr Powell in 1995, when opinion polls indicated he would have won the Republican nomination and defeated President Bill Clinton at the polls.

It had long been known Mrs Powell had been fearful that Mr Powell then a recently retired four-star general and Gulf war hero was afraid he might be murdered by a racist if he tried to become the first black man to be elected American president.

When he announced he would not run, Mr Powell said he did not have the "passion and commitment" to campaign for the office and did not cite family reasons. Standing beside him, however, Mrs Powell positively beamed.

Now 65, Mr Powell could still run for president in 2008 but his age would count against him and 2000 was considered his last real opportunity.

Mrs Powell had moved house more than 20 times in 31 years during her husband's career and wanted stability as well as safety. Bruce Llewllyn, Powell's cousin, said at the time: "Colin really wants to run. But Alma is adamant. She's totally against it."

The revelation that she threatened divorce is contained in 'Bush at War', a new book by Bob Woodward. Mr Powell is understood to have co-operated extensively with the author, granting him several "off the record" interviews.

Woodward writes: "What was secret was that Alma had flatly told him that if he ran for president she would leave him . . . running for president, making her first lady was not what she wanted for her life."

The Powells met on a blind date in her home town of Birmingham, Alabama, in 1961. As the daughter of the principal of one of the city's two black high schools, the young soldier saw her as a cut above him socially.

Although she always shunned the limelight, she stood by him as he rose to the head of the US armed services and held a string of government posts while a uniformed officer. Their marriage has always been known as one of the strongest in American politics.

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Meanwhile, General Wesley Clark, the former Nato supreme commander, is thought to be considering a move into politics as Democrats search for someone to stand against George W Bush in 2004.

General Clark (57), a Rhodes scholar and Vietnam veteran, didn't quash the speculation yesterday.

"I am concerned about the future of the country," he told television reporters, while proclaiming his interest in American leadership around the world.

"I'm an American citizen. I've had some good experiences and I'd like to share those with others." (Daily Telegraph, London)

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