A political ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel resigned after being stripped of her doctorate for alleged plagiarism. Education Minister Annette Schavan made the move four days after the University of Dusseldorf ruled that she had "systematically and intentionally" copied parts of her thesis, and withdrew her PhD, granted more than 30 years ago.
"Annette Schavan offered her resignation last night," Mrs Merkel told reporters. "I accepted this resignation with a very heavy heart," she added, saying Ms Schavan was putting the public good ahead of her own welfare.
Mrs Merkel, who lost her defence minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg in a similar scandal two years ago, made no mention of the charges against Ms Schavan. Ms Schavan, a close confidante of the chancellor who said their friendship would last, reiterated she would fight the university's decision to strip her of her degree.
"I will not accept the decision and will take legal action against it," Ms Schavan told reporters. "When an education minister sues a university, then that comes with strains, for my office, for the ministry, the government and for the Christian Democrats. I want to avoid just that."
While awkward for Mrs Merkel, the resignation is unlikely to weaken the chancellor's chances of a third term in elections on September 22. Her Christian Democrats regularly poll above 40 per cent, giving them an easy lead over the main opposition Social Democrats.