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UK foreign minister William Hague stepping down

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By JILL LAWLESS
Associated Press

LONDON (AP) - Britain's high-profile foreign minister, William Hague, is leaving his job, the government said Monday - a surprise announcement that precedes a major shakeup of the Conservative-led administration.

Prime Minister David Cameron's office said Hague, who has been Britain's most visible statesman on international crises in the Middle East and Ukraine, was moving to the post of leader of the House of Commons and will quit national politics next year.

Cameron said Hague would be "my de facto political deputy in the run-up to the election" in May 2015 and help lead the campaign for a Conservative majority in Parliament.

Cameron is due to announce a major Cabinet shuffle on Tuesday, but news of Hague's departure came as a surprise to many.

Hague he would continue to work as a special envoy on ending sexual violence in conflict. Hague has been a high-profile campaigner on the subject alongside Hollywood star Angelina Jolie.

Hague, who was first elected to the House of Commons in 1989, also said he would leave Parliament at the next election.

"After the general election I will return to my writing, while still giving very active support to the Conservative Party and campaigning on international causes I believe in," Hague said in a statement.

Hague is just 53, but he is wrapping up a political career that began in the 1970s. He first came to national attention as a precocious 16-year-old, when he made a televised speech at a Conservative convention.

He became Conservative leader at the age of 36 in 1997 after the party's defeat by Tony Blair's Labour Party, but his tenure ended in another election defeat in 2001.

Since returning to office with Cameron's government, he has become one of the government's best-known members. His unlikely alliance with Jolie to fight sexual violence in conflict has been widely praised.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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