Police chief quits over charges

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The president of Interpol, Jackie Selebi, mired in a corruption scandal in his native South Africa, has resigned his post "out of respect" for the international police organization, an Interpol statement said yesterday.

National police commissioner in South Africa, Selebi said in his letter of resignation that he did not want the allegations against him to sully the reputation of Interpol, which made the letter public.

Interpol Secretary General Ronald K. Noble, the top official at the Lyon-based agency, praised Selebi's professionalism, saying in a statement that the South African "has always conducted himself and acted in a way to enhance global security and police cooperation worldwide."

The allegations against Selebi "have nothing to do with" his role of president or the organization's work, Interpol said.

The corruption claims are linked to Selebi's "generally corrupt relationship" with Glen Agliotti, a convicted drug trafficker, South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority said Friday. Selebi has proclaimed his innocence.

President Thabo Mbeki has stood by Selebi, a close ally. In his letter of resignation, Selebi said Mbeki has granted his request for an extended leave of absence from his job as national commissioner "so that I can devote my energies to clearing my name."

South Africa's National Prosecuting Authority announced plans Friday to charge Selebi, after police arrested a top prosecutor who led the Selebi investigation. A war between the two law enforcement agencies appears to be escalating.

In France, Noble, the Interpol chief, said charges, if deemed justified, should be "brought promptly" so that a full investigation can be carried out and rumours cut short.