On two troubled fronts, North Korea and Iran, Secretary of State Colin Powell (search) said Friday diplomacy appears to be making headway toward ending their nuclear weapons (search) programs — without the need to repeat the use of force that toppled Saddam Hussein in Iraq.

In a 25-minute Associated Press interview, Powell calmly assured North Korea (search) and an anxious international community that "we have no hostile intent, we have no intention of invading."

As for Iran (search), Powell said he did not know of any American military action being contemplated. "Obviously, at the Pentagon they are always thinking about the unthinkable, but there are no military plans," he said.

Nearing the end of his term as America's top diplomat, Powell said he had not decided what do to next. "Doors will open and I will go through some of them," Powell said, while stressing he remained interested in improving the education of American children.

"I'm interested in any child being left behind, African-American, Hispanic-American, or any white Americans in Appalachia. I have always had an interest in making sure that all young people are educated so they can take advantage of the opportunities that exist in this country," Powell said.

"I still have some treadwear left on me," he said in a wide-ranging discussion of world trouble spots, including the Middle East. There too, Powell was upbeat.

He said Israel had shown flexibility toward the Palestinians in advance of their Jan. 9 elections and that the United States was prepared to work with whomever is chosen to succeed Yasser Arafat (search) as their leader.

"There is no question that in Europe and in other parts of the world, the Arab world, the Muslim world, there is a negative view towards some of our policies," Powell said.

"Our policies in Iraq and some of the issues associated with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have caused us to get negative ratings," he said.

"But I don't believe it is against America. I think it is against these policies. And if these policies turn out to demonstrate to the world that they are the correct policies" attitudes will change for the better, Powell said.

And yet, he gave no ground on the war against Iraq, saying he never opposed using force against President Saddam Hussein.

Powell said he advised seeking support in the United Nations before the invasion but all along held the view that "if you can't solve it peacefully and the problem is still there, and it does require military action, then get a coalition to undertake that military action and that is what we did."