WASHINGTON, March 3 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell announced Monday that Charlotte Beers, who was hired by his department to improve the United States' image in the Muslim world, is resigning.
Her resignation will become effective in about two weeks, officials at the State Department told United Press International.
Although Beers has come in for some harsh criticism from commentators and indicated at a Senate briefing last week that she found her job very daunting, Powell said she was leaving for health reasons.
"Charlotte Beers, a key and vital member of my team, is leaving us shortly for health reasons," he said.
Beers, who previously worked as an advertising executive, joined the State Department in October 2001 as undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and headed the department's campaign to staunch the rising tide of anti-American feelings in Muslim countries.
Patricia Harrison, who heads the State Department's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, is expected to look after Beers' department until a new person is found, officials said.
Beers' biography on the State Department's Web site describes her as the only executive in the advertising industry to have served as chairman of two of the top 10 worldwide agencies: J. Walter Thompson and Ogilvy & Mather.
"Charlotte brought incredible expertise from Madison Avenue to Foggy Bottom," said Powell.
"She brought new energy, new ideas, and new enthusiasm to our interaction with the public in America and throughout the world," he added.
But at briefing at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday, Beers hinted that she found her job -- selling the policies of the U.S. government to the Islamic world -- an uphill struggle.
"The gap between who we are and how we wish to be seen and how we are in fact seen, is frighteningly wide," Beers told the committee.
Giving an example of the problems she faced as the Bush administration's public relations person for the Muslim world, Beers said that recently her department produced a series of mini-documentaries about the way Muslims live in America.
"We had to actually pull them back from being appearing too exaggerated for fear people wouldn't believe them," she said.
She also indicated the problems she might have faced within the State Department and from other government departments when she spoke of the need for the government to realize the importance of her job.
"Above all, we need an agreement in all the parts of the government that this work of engagement, of building trust and understanding is a crucial job. It's not a job to be done on the way to something else," she told the Senate hearing.
Beers was also said to be resentful about media commentary that compared her role in trying to sell America abroad with her prior role of selling Uncle Ben's Rice, among other products.
But while announcing her resignation, Powell did not hint at the differences she might have had with others. Instead he said she joined the department "at a critical and stressful time for our nation" and "sharpened our policy advocacy and took our values and our ideas to mass audiences in countries which hadn't heard from us in a concerted way for years."
"She helped us find new ways of making our case to policy makers while expanding our outreach efforts to make connections with ordinary people, particularly in Muslim nations. Her goal of reaching 'younger, broader, and deeper' audiences will remain with us as she departs," he said.