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Blair's press boss Campbell quits

Alastair Campbell
Campbell was outspoken in his condemnation of the BBC.

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Will Alastair Campbell's departure help or hinder Tony Blair?
Tony Blair
Alastair Campbell
David Kelly

LONDON, England (CNN) -- Tony Blair's director of communications, Alastair Campbell, has resigned -- a week after giving evidence to an inquiry into the death of a government scientist.

Campbell, 46, who played a key role in Blair's government, said Friday he would leave "in a few weeks."

"It has been an enormous privilege to work so closely in opposition and in government for someone I believe history will judge as a great transforming prime minister," Campbell said in a statement posted on the Web site of Number 10 Downing Street, Blair's office. (Campbell statement)

"We agreed on April 7 of this year, however, that I would definitely leave this summer and I have now given the prime minister formal notice of my decision to leave."

Blair said in a statement: "I knew for a long time he wanted to move on and I wish him every success. He was, is and will remain a good friend." (Blair statement)

Campbell moved into the political arena after a career in journalism. (Campbell profile)

He is expected to leave the job in the next few weeks. He will be replaced by David Hill, 55, a former Labour Party director of communications. (Hill profile)

For the past three months, Campbell has been involved in a bitter row with the BBC over its story that the government exaggerated a dossier on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction.

Scientist David Kelly, exposed as the main source of the BBC report, was found dead on July 18. It is thought he slashed his wrist.

On August 19, Campbell told the inquiry, chaired by Lord Hutton, that he denied he had "sexed up" the dossier.

"I had no input, output, influence upon it whatever at any stage in the process," he said. (Full story)

Campbell has often been called the second most powerful man in Britain. He was Blair's official spokesman in 1994 when the prime minister was still the leader of the opposition Labour Party.

In his resignation statement, Campbell said his family had paid a price for his role and said his partner, Fiona Millar, who works for Blair's wife Cherie, would be leaving Number 10 at the same time.

Campbell said he did not want to take on "another big job" but hoped to write, broadcast and make speeches.

Campbell said he "did not think it appropriate to announce (his resignation) on a day when Lord Hutton was sitting." The Hutton inquiry normally does not convene on Fridays.

"I shall of course continue to be available to assist his inquiry in any way he wishes," Campbell said. "I will also be available in the next few weeks to assist the handover to my successor, who will be announced shortly."

Blair and Campbell are regarded as close associates -- so much so that Campbell's comments have often been interpreted as carrying the full weight of the prime minister.

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