Secretary of State Colin Powell (search), a Republican centrist who is popular with moderate voters, will not attend the GOP convention (search) in New York that will nominate President Bush for a second term.

"On White House instruction, Secretary Powell as well as others among the Cabinet, will not attend," State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said Tuesday. "This is in keeping with past practice."

Ereli also drew attention to Powell's remarks last week at a convention of minority journalists that he was obliged as secretary not to take part in "parochial debate."

The Republicans gather for the four-day convention beginning Aug. 30.

With Bush in a close race against Democratic nominee John Kerry (search), Powell's stature with both Republicans and Democrats who favor a cautious approach to world problems could be an asset to the president.

In fact, Powell has defended Bush's foreign policy in interviews and speeches, dismissing Kerry's assertions that the president is inclined to go it alone in dangerous overseas ventures and favors pre-emptive action.

Kerry has placed special emphasis on consulting with allies and other foreign governments. He has faulted Bush on the war with Iraq, saying the president's approach alienated Arab and European governments.

In response, Powell told Unity: Journalists of Color Convention last Thursday that Bush took his advice to "not act unilaterally" and made the case against Iraqi President Saddam Hussein at the United Nations in September 2002.

Yet Powell also acknowledged, "The intelligence community apparently got it wrong on stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. I do not expect huge stockpiles to be found."

He said Bush officials knew that if "the United Nations ultimately did not act, and we didn't solve it diplomatically, we knew then that it might be necessary for us to solve it through the use of military force."

Powell's differences with Bush and his senior advisers who are more conservative occasionally is an issue. He favors abortion rights and affirmative action.