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POWELL PONDERS HIS POPULARITY

Colin Powell says there's a reason why a retired general, a Texas billionaire and a New York publisher all captured the attention of voters: The politicians aren't listening to people.

Powell said Thursday he has told Democrats and Republicans they should worry more about what the people want and less about raising money for re-election."You've got to start listening to the American people a little more," he said at a Great Communicators Luncheon sponsored by the Columbus Speech and Hearing Center.

Voters want new leadership dedicated to solving the country's problems, said the retired general and former chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff. That is why they have turned to such people as Ross Perot, Steve Forbes and Powell himself, he said.

Powell worked in his usual denial of any interest in a political role this year, saying, "In 1996, my family and I made a final decision. Politics will not be in our lives."

He did not rule out the possibility of a future political role, adding, "It is a wonderful country in which doors are constantly opening and closing.

"If any president asked me to do something, obviously, I would have to take it under advisement."

Later Thursday, before speaking for a fund-raising dinner for the University of Mobile, Powell said he wished the political spotlight would shift from him to the charities he now supports.

He was asked whether he would work in the Dole campaign.

"That is a question that hasn't been brought to me yet," he said.