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Powell endorses Obama

The Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama wins the support of Colin Powell, a former Bush official.

The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks during a taping of
The former US Secretary of State Colin Powell speaks during a taping of "Meet the Press" at NBC Oct 19 2008 in Washington, DC. Mr Powell spoke about his endorsement of the Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama.

WASHINGTON // The Democrat presidential candidate Barack Obama won the endorsement today of the former secretary of state Colin Powell, a Republican and fellow African-American who served as the country's top diplomat in the first George W Bush administration. The politically powerful endorsement from Mr Powell, a retired general and former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, could do much to undercut the Republican opponent John McCain's argument that Mr Obama is not ready to serve as the US military commander in chief. In an appearance on NBC's Meet The Press, Mr Powell said both candidates were qualified to be Commander in Chief, but that Mr Obama is better suited to handle the nation's economic problems as well as help improve its standing in the world. "It isn't easy for me to disappoint Senator McCain in the way that I have this morning, and I regret that," Mr Powell said of his longtime friend, the Arizona senator. "But I firmly believe that at this point in America's history, we need a president that will not just continue, even with a new face and with the changes and with some maverick aspects, who will not just continue basically the policies that we have been following in recent years. "I think we need a transformational figure. I think we need a president who is a generational change and that's why I'm supporting Barack Obama, not out of any lack of respect or admiration for Senator John McCain." Mr Powell, who himself was once touted as a possible Republican presidential candidate, but declined to make a run, also criticised the negative tone of the McCain campaign. Mr Powell also expressed disappointment in Mr McCain's choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as a running mate, and McCain's and Palin's decision to focus in the closing weeks of the contest on Mr Obama's ties to 1960s-era radical William Ayers. He said Mr McCain's choice of Mrs Palin raised questions about his judgment. "I don't believe she's ready to be president of the United States," Mr Powell said. Mr Powell said he was aware of the racial aspect of his endorsement, but said that was not the dominant factor in his decision. If it was, he said, he would have made the endorsement months ago. Mr Obama basked in the endorsement, lauding Mr Powell as "a great soldier, a great statesman and a great American". In remarks at a rally in Fayetteville area of North Carolina, Mr Obama said he was "beyond honoured and deeply humbled to have the support of Gen Colin Powell". Mr McCain's strongest campaign credentials are his long background in military and national security affairs, and he is a hero of the Vietnam War, during which he was held prisoner for five-and-a-half years. He said he was not surprised by Mr Powell's endorsement of Mr Obama, but noted he was backed by four other former secretaries of state and scores of past and present military leaders. *Agencies