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Last Updated: Friday, 17 June, 2005, 04:52 GMT 05:52 UK
Brazil minister quits government
By Steve Kingstone
BBC News, Sao Paulo

Jose Dirceu resigns
Mr Dirceu (right) is a close friend and ally of the Brazilian president
A senior minister in Brazil's left-wing government has resigned following a series of corruption allegations.

In a TV statement on Thursday evening, Jose Dirceu said he was stepping down as chief-of-staff to President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, known as Lula.

But, he insisted, he had done nothing to be ashamed of.

Last week, a Brazilian lawmaker accused Mr Dirceu of turning a blind eye to bribes allegedly paid by the governing party for support in parliament.

Mr Dirceu was one of the most powerful figures in Brazil's government.

Some even dubbed him "the real president".

In his resignation statement, he said he was leaving office with clean hands and that he would respond in parliament to what he called unfounded allegations.

Close friend and ally

Mr Dirceu was accused of knowing about and failing to stop bribery, allegedly in the form of payments by the governing Workers' Party to parliamentary allies.

Those claims were made last week by Roberto Jefferson, the leader of Brazil's Labour party.

But as yet no hard proof has appeared and Mr Jefferson faces his own corruption allegations.

So why has such a high-profile member of the government resigned?

Very simply, to put clear distance between these allegations and Lula, a friend and close ally of Mr Dirceu.

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06 Jun 05 |  Americas
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14 Feb 04 |  Americas
Brazil's Lula promises change
02 Jan 03 |  Americas

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