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Security agency nominee withdraws

WASHINGTON -- Former New York police commissioner Bernard Kerik, President Bush's choice to be homeland security secretary, has withdrawn his name from consideration for personal reasons, the White House announced last night.

Presidential press secretary Scott McClellan, in a conference call to news organizations, said: "The president respects his decision and wishes the commissioner and his wife, Hala, well."

McClellan said the White House "will move as quickly as we can to name someone else to fill this nomination."

Bush's nomination of Kerik quickly proved controversial. News reports in recent days focused on revelations that Kerik had made millions of dollars by exercising stock options in a stun gun company that sold weapons to the Homeland Security Department. The White House had previously said that Kerik would avoid any conflicts of interest.

Records filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission show Kerik made $6.2 million by exercising stock options he received from Taser International. He has been a consultant for the company and still serves on its board of directors, although the company and the White House said he planned to sever the relationship.

Kerik, 49, had been selected by Bush to succeed Tom Ridge in the Cabinet-level position.

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