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I fight on, says Mandelson

Mandelson
Mandelson intends to remain the MP for Hartlepool  

HARTLEPOOL, England -- Disgraced former Cabinet minister Peter Mandelson is not quitting politics completely and is to take his place on the Labour backbenches, he has announced.

The former Northern Ireland Secretary told the Hartlepool Mail -- the local newspaper that covers his north east England constituency -- that he intends to concentrate on being the town's Member of Parliament.

Mandelson, 47, speaking on Thursday, a day after he resigned his government position, said: "I'm going to concentrate on being a good constituency MP. I intend to fight for Hartlepool and its people."

Mandelson, who had to travel to Belfast after his resignation to clear his belongings out of the government's official residence, said: "I've just had enough. Not the job. Just all of the other stuff that goes with it."

Meanwhile, the Indian business tycoon at the centre of the passport row which led to his resignation has denied that he sought political favours, despite the ex-minister contacting a Home Office colleague in 1998 about a passport application by Srichand Hinduja.

Hinduja said he had made his British passport application as any citizen of any country would do.

But Mandelson's personal intervention in the application was made at a time when he was responsible for the Millennium Dome project in London and the Hinduja Foundation, set up by Hinduja and his two brothers, provided the attraction with 1 million sponsorship.

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All three brothers are in India where they face questions over corruption allegations.

Although Mandelson denied opponents' accusations that he pulled strings for Hinduja, his failure to clarify his involvement, even to Prime Minister Tony Blair, sealed his fate.

Speaking from New Delhi, Hinduja maintained that there was no connection between the Dome donation and his successful passport application -- one year after his previous application for British citizenship had been turned down.

"I have not asked anybody to give any favour to me, whether it is Peter Mandelson or anybody else," he said.

Blair, meanwhile, has ordered a review of the citizenship application to ensure it was above board.

His spokesman confirmed the inquiry by Sir Anthony Hammond QC would look at all the circumstance surrounding the naturalisation application by Hinduja.

Hinduja
Srichand Hinduja (right) maintains that no favours were asked  

As Mandelson reaffirmed his commitment to his constituents, his successor in the Northern Ireland post was settling into his role.

John Reid, the former Scottish Secretary, was holding key meetings at a crucial time for the peace process.

Reid, a Roman Catholic, was expected to meet Royal Ulster Constabulary Chief Constable Sir Ronnie Flanagan on his first official visit to Belfast.

He acknowledged the Good Friday Agreement was at a critical stage and that the main issues of IRA decommissioning, policing reform and demilitarisation were at the fore.

He said: "The next few weeks provide an enormous opportunity to put the Agreement and the future of Northern Ireland on a more stable basis."

Reuters contributed to this report.



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RELATED SITES:
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No 10 Downing Street
Northern Ireland Office
Northern Ireland Assembly
UK Government

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