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Postwar policy chief to resign from post

WASHINGTON -- The White House's director of postwar policy for Iraq, who was instrumental in helping to set up an interim government to lead that country until elections can be held, is stepping down.

Robert Blackwill, a former ambassador to India, has overseen Iraq strategy at the National Security Council since mid-2003. He decided "some time ago" to depart government service after the presidential election, a White House official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said yesterday.

Blackwill's departure was first reported yesterday in The Washington Post. It was the second report in two days of a ranking official's decision to leave the Bush administration's national security establishment.

On Friday, the State Department confirmed the impending departure of J. Cofer Black, the department's chief counterterrorism figure. Like Blackwill, the former CIA operations officer had told superiors he planned to leave after the elections, and department spokesman Adam Ereli said he will end his 30-year government career in a matter of weeks.

Blackwill's absence will shorten the list of people said to be in the running to replace Condoleezza Rice as President Bush's national security adviser. Rice has told associates she will not stay in the post in the second Bush term and has talked about returning to academic life in California. She was a former provost at Stanford University and was a political science professor when Bush hired her.

Blackwill, whose formal title is coordinator for strategic planning on the NSC, spent months slipping in and out of Baghdad to put a US stamp on a caretaker government in Iraq. He was on the short list to become ambassador to Iraq in the spring, but Bush instead chose John D. Negroponte, former ambassador to the United Nations.

The White House would not comment about any impact of his departure on preparations for the Iraqi elections.

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