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President Obama's choice for next US ambassador to Iraq withdraws

WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's nominee to become the next U.S. ambassador to Iraq withdrew his name on Monday after Republican lawmakers questioned his suitability following revelations that he had engaged in an extramarital affair with a journalist who later became his wife.

Brett McGurk, a longtime Iraq expert who had served on the Bush administration's National Security Council, wrote to U.S. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that he was withdrawing “with a heavy heart.”

“I believe it is in the best interests of the country, and our life together, to withdraw my nomination and serve in another capacity,” McGurk said in the letter, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

McGurk's withdrawal throws a fresh question mark over Washington's uncertain relations with Iraq following the departure of U.S. forces last year.

While the embassy in Baghdad remains one of the biggest U.S. diplomatic facilities in the world, there are plans to trim the U.S. presence further as early hopes for close political and economic ties fade and Iraq's Shiite-led government draws closer to its powerful Shiite neighbor Iran.

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