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Andy Coulson, British Prime Minister David Cameron's communications director, quit Friday over tabloid phone-tapping claims.
British Prime Minister David Cameron's director of communications, Andy Coulson, Friday resigned over claims he encouraged reporters to spy on politicians, celebrities, and even royalty, while he worked as the editor of a powerful tabloid newspaper.
Coulson resigned after months of pressure over claims he oversaw the widespread hacking of mobile phone messages by journalists at the News of the World when he was editor.
In 2007, Clive Goodman, 49, a senior journalist on the Sunday tabloid, was sentenced to four months for conspiracy to access phone messages involving princes William and Harry. Glenn Mulcaire, 36, a freelance “researcher,” got a six-month sentence.
And the New York Times reported in September 2010 that phone hacking was widespread and interviewed Sean Hoare, another News of the World reporter, who claimed his superiors had ordered him to hack into phones.
Coulson maintains that he knew nothing about the phone-tapping. And police said last month that there was not enough evidence to charge Coulson with any crime, although an investigation is ongoing.
The News of the World faces at least four lawsuits filed by celebrities, including actress Sienna Miller, over allegations the newspaper hacked into mobile-phone voicemails. U.K. police and prosecutors said last week they would review the claims for a third time.
Coulson resigned from the Rupert Murdoch-owned newspaper in 2007 and later that year signed up as Cameron's communications director. He is considered to have played a key role in helping propel the Conservative leader to power in elections in May 2010.
Coulson's resignation coincided with the appearance of the former prime minister, Tony Blair,at an inquiry into the Iraq war, which is being followed by the local and international media.
Cameron said Friday in a statement that he was "very sorry" that Coulson was going but added that he could "understand that the continuing pressures on him and his family mean that he feels compelled to do so."
"Andy has told me that the focus on him was impeding his ability to do his job and was starting to prove a distraction for the government," Cameron said, without mentioning the scandal directly.
Coulson also released a statement: "I can today confirm that I've resigned as Downing Street director of communications," it read. "Unfortunately, continued coverage of events connected to my old job at the News of the World has made it difficult for me to give the 110 percent needed in this role.
"I stand by what I've said about those events but when the spokesman needs a spokesman, it's time to move on."
The news comes at a senstitive time for Murdoch's News Corp. which is waiting to hear if the government will clear its planned $12 billion buyout of pay TV operator BSkyB or refer the deal to competition authorities for further checks, Reuters reported.
Coulson's exit severs a link between the government and News Corp, amid mounting criticism that Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is too close to Murdoch to judge whether the company should be allowed to buy BSkyB.