updated 4/20/2007 10:58:52 AM ET 2007-04-20T14:58:52

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson became the latest Democratic presidential candidate Friday to call for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to resign, saying he's become a burden to the Justice Department.

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"After reviewing the attorney general's behavior, I must reluctantly conclude that new leadership is needed," Richardson said in an interview with The Associated Press. "It's time for him to go."

The call is significant because Gonzales, a fellow Hispanic, has enjoyed Richardson's support to this point. But Richardson said the questions that have been raised about the firing of eight U.S. Attorneys, and the role that Gonzales played in those firings, have effectively ended his ability to run the agency.

"He's lost his ability to lead," Richardson said, adding that he watched Gonzales' testimony before a Senate committee and found his explanations of his activities unconvincing. Gonzales needed a clear and cogent explanation of his actions, and that didn't happen, Richardson said.

"What bothered me was his couching his explanations," said Richardson. "It's important that he be fully open."

Stepping down now is important, Richardson said, because the Justice Department can't fulfill its mission with a wounded leader. He said the decision came only after spending time "reviewing the attorney general's behavior" through the crisis.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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