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UK transport minister Byers quits

Byers: "I know I have made mistakes"  

LONDON, England -- UK Transport Secretary Stephen Byers has resigned after months of upheaval in his ministry and criticism of his handling of the country's rail crisis.

He had faced sustained attacks since his now departed spin doctor Jo Moore, who suggested the September 11 attacks on the United States offered an opportunity to "bury bad news."

The collapse of Railtrack in October 2001 and the Potters Bar train crash in which seven people died earlier this month also weakened his position.

Byers, who had faced a series of accusations of misleading parliament and criticism over his management of the ailing privatised railway network, told a news conference at Downing Street on Tuesday he was leaving because it was the "right thing to do for the government and the (ruling) Labour Party."

He said he recognised he had become a distraction for the government and that by remaining in office he would "damage the government."

Byers said he stood by his major policy decisions and he insisted he was not a liar. But he added: "I know I have made mistakes."

Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is in Rome for the Nato summit, said in a statement he understood and respected Byers' decision.

"He has endured a huge amount of criticism, much of it unfair, whilst continuing to face up to the difficult policy decisions required within his department," Blair said.


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