German defence minister in plagiarism row quits

Berlin: Germany`s star defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg quit the cabinet on Tuesday, a week after a plagiarism scandal led to his doctoral degree being snatched away.

Guttenberg`s resignation is being seen as a major blow to the Angela Merkel led government as he was considered as the most popular minister in her cabinet and even a potential successor to her.

"I informed the chancellor in a very friendly conversation that I`m resigning from political offices and requested to be relieved," the 39-year-old popular figure who also served as the economy minister before being given the defence portfolio told reporters here.

He said the decision to resign was the "most painful" step of his life.

"I was always ready to fight. But I have reached the limits of my strength," he said.

He profusely thanked the Chancellor for her support and for showing trust and understanding in him.

Guttenberg was stripped of his doctorate degree by the University of Bayreuth last week even as he admitted the mistake and apologised "from the bottom of my heart" to the parliament for errors he blamed on a busy workload.

He, however, had insisted that he had not deliberately deceived anyone after it emerged that he copied "numerous" passages in his dissertation.

"Plagiarism assumes that one has consciously and deliberately cheated. And I have said in all my statements that I neither consciously nor deliberately cheated, but that I did make grave mistakes.

"It was obviously a very faulty doctoral dissertation.

I was so rash as to believe that I could combine my political enthusiasms and work with academic and intellectual challenges while raising a young family. Obviously it was overloading," Guttenberg told German Parliament after the plagiarism row hit him.

Guttenberg has earlier too found himself in controversies. In December last year, he was accused of turning a December visit to German troops in Afghanistan into a publicity stunt after he took along with him a television chatshow host.

The plagiarism scandal broke out after a law professor close to the opposition went through his doctoral thesis.