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Bush Isn't Hiring But . . .

Condoleezza Rice, a former national security adviser to President George Bush, will step down as Stanford University provost next June and may be considering a role in a presidential bid by her ex-boss's son, Texas Gov. George W. Bush.

Stanford announced Wednesday that Rice, one of the top-ranked black women in U.S. academia, had informed Board of Trustees she intended to leave her job as the university's chief budget officer at the end of the Spring term.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the 44-year-old Rice, an expert on the former Soviet Union who served as a White House national security advisor between 1989-91, was considering signing on as the international affairs advisor to Bush in his expected run for the Republican presidential campaign in 2000.

Rice told the Chronicle in an interview that she "did not rule out" joining a Bush campaign, but added that there was nothing formal afoot.

In Texas, Gov. Bush said he and Rice are friends. But he denied offering her any role in a campaign he says he isn't yet waging.

"I haven't decided if I'm going to run for president yet, much less start to put together a staff," Bush said. "There's no staff to put together."

He said he and Rice have talked about a number of issues.

Rice has described herself as a political moderate, "one of those all-over-the-map Republicans that drive people crazy," the Chronicle said.

Rice, who was appointed provost in 1993, has been a member of Stanford's political science faculty since 1981. Her departure next year is being officially described as a leave of absence from the university.