WASHINGTON • Ms Nikki Haley has resigned as the United States ambassador to the United Nations, in the latest departure from President Donald Trump's national security team.
Meeting Ms Haley in the Oval Office yesterday, Mr Trump said Ms Haley has done a "fantastic job" and would leave at the end of the year.
Mr Trump told reporters: "She told me probably six months ago, 'I want to take a little time off.'"
Ms Haley stayed coy on her reasons for quitting, saying only that it was "important to understand when it's time to stand aside".
But she insisted that she was not planning to run for president herself against Mr Trump in 2020, when she would likely be seen as a moderate Republican alternative.
Ms Haley, the former governor of South Carolina, took the job with little experience in foreign policy but quickly became the full-throated voice at the UN for the often unpopular agenda of Mr Trump.
Ms Haley stayed coy on her reasons for quitting, saying only that it was "important to understand when it's time to stand aside". But she insisted that she was not planning to run for president herself against Mr Trump in 2020, when she would likely be seen as a moderate Republican alternative.
Earlier this year, Ms Haley, 46, said "every day, I feel like I put body armour on" to protect US interests at the UN.
Ms Haley has pressed for a hawkish line on Iran, justified US cuts to foreign assistance, and earlier this year, led the US in bolting from the UN Human Rights Council, accusing it of bias against Washington and Israel.
At the recent UN General Assembly session, Ms Haley, in a highly unusual step for a senior diplomat, joined street protesters demonstrating against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro outside the UN building in New York, and shouted from a megaphone that the leftist leader should leave office.
The daughter of Indian immigrants, Ms Haley has long been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party, which has eagerly sought female and ethnic minorities to broaden the appeal beyond its traditional white demographic.
Ms Haley, whose was born Nimrata Randhawa, in 2010 was elected governor of the deeply Republican state of South Carolina.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, she criticised Mr Trump for his remarks on immigrants. She and Mr Trump were politically reconciled later.
In December last year, she said women who had accused Mr Trump of sexual misconduct "should be heard". Mr Peter Yeo, an official with the UN Foundation, said: "She was critical in ushering in UN reforms in partnership with the Secretary-General, and she took a thoughtful approach to peacekeeping and national security issues.
"There certainly were great areas of contention between the United States and the UN. But she played a very important and constructive role."
Ms Haley is the latest person to resign in a turbulent White House, where Mr Trump is already on his third national security adviser and second secretary of state before even the mid-term elections.
AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS, WASHINGTON POST