WASHINGTON (AP) -- Taking a step beyond the Bush administration, Secretary of State Colin Powell boldly encouraged the use of condoms by the sexually active during an interview with young MTV watchers from across the globe.
Powell was put on the spot by Daniela Satori, 19, a Roman Catholic in Milan, Italy. Satori wanted Powell to describe his thoughts about her church's stance on condom use. He grinned widely before answering.
"I certainly respect the views of the Holy Father and the Catholic Church," said Powell, who answered questions through a satellite link. "In my own judgment, condoms are a way to prevent infection, and therefore, I not only support their use, I encourage their use among people who are sexually active."
In making the comment, Powell waded into waters that the Bush administration has avoided. Bush health officials have advocated abstinence education along with other sexual education, but Bush has not spoken directly in favor of condom use.
"It is important that the whole international community come together, speak candidly about it, forget about taboos, forget about conservative ideas with respect to what you should tell young people about," Powell said.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said the president does not object to what Powell said about condoms. "There's, of course, a group of people who are going to be sexually active no matter what anybody in the government, or anybody's family, says about abstinence. The president's point is they both need to be highlighted," Fleischer said.
As for Powell's remarks about taboos and conservative ideas, Fleischer said the secretary was speaking in a theological, rather than political, context.
The remarks brought instant criticism from some conservative groups.
"Colin Powell is the secretary of state, not the secretary of health," said James Dobson, president of Focus on the Family. "He is talking about a subject he doesn't understand. He clearly doesn't understand the science regarding condom efficacy."
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