Powell waiting for the call

Washington - General Colin Powell has intensified speculation that he may become America's first black president following the revelation that he believes he has "the skills to do the job", possibly at the head of an independent third party, writes John Carlin.

In excerpts from the general's forthcoming autobiography published alongside an interview in this week's Time, he says "the time may be at hand for a third major party to represent the sensible centre of the American political spectrum", but he stops short of committing himself to lead such a party in next year's presidential election.

General Powell, a former head of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said he would see whether he hears the call to run for president during the next two months, which he means to spend travelling around America promoting his book.

Critical of the ideologically over-zealous Republican Party, scornful of the Clinton administration's callow approach to foreign policy, he says in his book that neither of the two leading parties "fits me comfortably in its present state".

"People are wondering what Forrest Gump Colin Powell stands for," the general told Time. "Well, they're about to find out, as I deal with the various issues that are out there and I become a public figure again." President Clinton and the contenders for the Republican presidential candidacy will be watching his every step.