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Last Updated: Saturday, 7 January 2006, 22:21 GMT
DeLay relinquishes Congress post
Tom DeLay

Embattled Republican politician Tom DeLay has given up his attempt to reclaim his post as majority leader of the US House of Representatives.

Mr DeLay was forced to step aside temporarily after he was indicted in Texas on a campaign finance case.

The politician is accused of laundering corporate contributions for use in Republican campaigns in the state.

He has maintained his innocence, but says he will not allow his "adversaries" to "divide" the party.

His decision to quit clears the way for Republicans to choose a new leader to represent them in the House of Representatives.

'Always ethical'

Mr DeLay, a close ally of President George W Bush, was one of the most powerful politicians in Washington before his indictment in September.

He had until now said he intended to resume his leadership post once cleared.

Mr DeLay told reporters that he "had always acted in an ethical manner" in his 21 years in Congress, but did not want to become a distraction.

"I cannot allow our adversaries to divide and distract our attention," he wrote in a letter to Republicans.

In a separate letter to Speaker Dennis Hastert, Mr DeLay said he planned to seek re-election to his House seat in mid-term elections in November, and urged a new leadership election as soon as possible.

The majority leader's job and "the mandate of the Republican majority are too important to be hamstrung, even for a few months, by personal distractions," he wrote.

The White House said in a statement that it respected Mr DeLay's decision to put the interests of the people, House and party first.

The congressman has faced growing pressure from Republicans concerned about mid-term elections.

A small group had signed a petition calling for a new vote on the leadership.

They cited the problems of Mr DeLay's legal battles and his long-term ties to lobbyist Jack Abramoff, who pleaded guilty to fraud charges this week.

Mr DeLay and two others are accused of laundering $190,000 (109,000) in corporate donations for distribution to Republican candidates to the Texas Legislature in the 2002 state campaign.

Texas state law forbids the use of corporate money for political campaigns.

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