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Clinton's top strategist quits post
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U.S. Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton's top strategist is quitting his post due to his contacts with the Colombian government over a pending free-trade deal, Clinton's campaign said Sunday.

Mark Penn will continue advise the New York senator's presidential bid, but will give up his job as chief strategist, campaign manager Maggie Williams said.

"After the events of the last few days, Mark Penn has asked to give up his role as chief strategist of the Clinton campaign," Williams said.

Penn is CEO of public relations giant Burston Marsteller and is president of Penn, Schoen and Berland, his political consulting firm.

Last Friday, he acknowledged that he had met with the Colombian ambassador to the United States earlier last week in his role as Burston Marsteller's chief to discuss the pending U.S.-Colombia trade pact, which Clinton has criticized on the campaign trail.

Penn called the meeting "an error in judgment that won't be repeated."

That prompted Colombia's government to criticize the company, calling the remarks "a lack of respect to Colombians."

Clinton and top aides had been sharply critical of rival Democrat Barack Obama in February when reports indicated that his top economic adviser had suggested to a Canadian official that Obama was not as supportive of changes to the North American Free Trade Agreement as he claimed to be on the campaign trail.

(Xinhua News Agency April 7, 2008)

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