British PM Brown resigns, Cameron set for office

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British Prime Minister Gordon Brown announced his resignation on Tuesday, paving the way for Conservative leader David Cameron to take power five days after deadlocked elections.

The announcement came as the Conservatives appeared to be finalising a power-sharing deal with the third-placed Liberal Democrats, five days after inconclusive ballots.

"I've informed the Queen's private secretary that it is my intention to tender my resignation to the Queen," he said in a statement in Downing Street, his voice cracking with emotion.

"In the event that the Queen accepts I shall advise her to invite the leader of the opposition to seek to form a government. I wish the next prime minister well as he makes the important choices for the future," he added.

Immediately afterwards he and his wife Sarah were driven from Downing Street to Buckingham Palace for Brown offer his resignation to Queen Elizabeth II, Britain's head of state.

In last Thursday's general election, the Conservatives won 306 seats in the 650-member House of Commons -- 20 short of a clear majority of 326 -- followed by Labour on 258 and the Lib Dems on 57.

After five days of talks between the Lib Dems and Tories -- and briefly between Nick Clegg's Lib Dems and Labour, there was no immediate announcement of a deal between Cameron's and Clegg's party.

But the BBC cited a senior Lib Dem official as saying the power-sharing offer from David Cameron's Conservatives was now "the only deal in town." The Lib Dems declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Andy Burnham indicated that he agreed with senior former Cabinet minister David Blunkett, who has said that Labour should admit defeat and not try to form a coalition with the Lib Dems.

"I think we have got to respect the result of the general election and you cannot get away from the fact that Labour didn't win," he told the BBC.

Earlier Tuesday, Cameron had piled pressure on Clegg's party to decide which way to jump after he offered Monday a referendum on their touchstone issue of electoral reform.

"It's now I believe decision time, decision time for the Liberal Democrats," said Cameron, adding: "I hope they make the right decision that will give this country the strong, stable government it badly needs and badly needs quickly."

Labour and the Lib Dems are ideologically closer, on the left of the political spectrum, than the centre-right Conservatives and the Lib Dems, although the electoral arithmetic of a Tory/Lib Dem deal is stronger.

Sterling rallied sharply on the reports that Labour-Lib Dem talks had failed, with the pound bouncing as high as 1.5005 dollars, but the FTSE fell by almost one percent on eurozone debt concerns.

The FTSE also sank amid investor concerns that a Labour/Lib Dem government could lack the clout to reduce Britain's massive debt after its worst recession on record.

© 2010 AFP

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