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U.K. PM aide quits after royal phone-tap flap

The British prime minister's communications chief Andy Coulson resigned on Friday, as prosecutors stepped up their inquiries into illegal phone hacking by a newspaper he edited.
Andy Coulson, Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications, leaves the High Court in Glasgow, Scotland
Andy Coulson, former News of the World newspaper editor and Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications, leaves the High Court in Glasgow, Scotland, December, 2010.David Moir / REUTERS
/ Source: Reuters

The British prime minister's communications chief Andy Coulson resigned on Friday, as prosecutors stepped up their inquiries into illegal phone hacking at a tabloid newspaper when he was editor.

"We confirm that Andy Coulson has resigned," an official in Prime Minister David Cameron's office said. Coulson was a key part of Cameron's inner circle after joining the Conservative leader's team when in opposition in 2007.

Cameron had said Monday that Coulson was "extremely embarrassed" by the renewed spat over the allegations.

The prime minister told BBC radio that "bad things" had happened when Coulson was chief editor of the News of the World, the tabloid newspaper that is a focus of a criminal inquiry into phone hacking.

'A second chance'
The News of The World has been at the center of the scandal since a reporter and a private investigator employed by the title were caught illegally eavesdropping on the phones of the British royal family's entourage.

The pair were convicted in 2007, but News of the World executives have long insisted that they were the only ones responsible for the tapping operation — a claim dismissed as implausible by the paper's critics.

"Obviously, when he was editor of the News of the World, bad things happened at that newspaper," Cameron said Monday.

"I always think that the danger at the moment is that he is effectively being punished twice for the same offense. I think in life that sometimes it is right to give someone a second chance," he added.

Cameron chose Coulson as communications director after Coulson had resigned from the newspaper because of the phone hacking charges.

Coulson has denied any wrongdoing, but the case continues to dog him. It was revived Friday when prosecutors reopened a criminal inquiry that had been shut.