updated 2/24/2007 10:21:14 AM ET 2007-02-24T15:21:14

Michigan’s first female U.S. attorney says she is stepping down, prompting speculation that she is the latest in a wave of resignations forced by the Bush administration.

Margaret M. Chiara, 63, said Friday she would resign her position effective March 16, but did not say why. She said in a statement issued by her office that she intends to remain in public service.

Chiara was unavailable for comment Friday because she was attending to personal matters, an aide said.

Seven other U.S. attorneys have been forced to resign in recent months. Democrats have accused the Bush administration of forcing the resignations to make way for political allies .

Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Chiara’s resignation “could well be one of them. Now that this shoe has dropped, we’ll be continuing to seek better explanations than those we’ve been given.”

Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse declined to comment on whether Chiara was forced from her post.

Deputy Attorney General Paul J. McNulty told senators earlier this month that one of the seven prosecutors was forced out to give his post to a former aide to presidential adviser Karl Rove. The others were fired for “performance-related” reasons, he said.

Federal prosecutors serve at the pleasure of the president, subject to Senate confirmation. U.S. attorneys can be fired for any reason.

Chiara was nominated by President Bush for the position in 2001. During her tenure as U.S. attorney for the Western District of Michigan, the jurisdiction has seen a 15 percent increase in felony prosecutions and convictions. She developed an attorney training and mentoring program that now serves as a national model, her office said.

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