US President Donald Trump has accepted the surprise resignation of UN Ambassador Nikki Haley.
He told reporters in the Oval Office alongside Mrs Haley that she would be leaving the post at the end of the year after doing “an incredible job”.
One of the few women in the Trump cabinet, the 46-year-old former South Carolina governor gave no reason for her exit after two years.
But she dismissed speculation she was planning to run for president in 2020.
Mrs Haley told journalists she would be campaigning for “this one”, pointing to Mr Trump.
“I don’t have anything set on where I’m going to go,” Mrs Haley said.
“It’s been eight years of intense time, and I’m a believer in term limits.
“I think you have to be selfless enough to know when you step aside and allow someone else do the job.”
She told Mr Trump: “Thank you, Mr President. It has been an honour of a lifetime.”
Her Twitter bio had already removed all reference to her role as UN envoy even before her departure was confirmed.
Mr Trump said Mrs Haley had told him six months ago she wanted to take some time off.
The president said she “has been very special to me, she has done an incredible job, she is a fantastic person, very importantly, but she is also somebody that gets it”.
“We’ve done a fantastic job together,” he continued. “We’ve solved a lot of problems, and we’re in the process of solving a lot of problems.”
“Hopefully you’ll be coming back at some point, right,” Mr Trump said. “Maybe a different capacity, you can have your pick.” Mrs Haley laughed.
Mr Trump also told reporters: “She’s made it a very glamorous position.”
He added that he would be naming her replacement in the next two to three weeks.
The president said “very good people” are interested in taking up her role.
Who is Nikki Haley?
- Born Nimrata Randhawa to Indian immigrant parents, she was raised as a Sikh in Bamberg, South Carolina, later converting to Christianity
- Her first job as a 13-year-old was bookkeeping for her family’s clothing store
- In 2010, she became South Carolina’s first female and first minority governor – and the youngest governor in the country, and was re-elected in 2014
- She received nationwide praise for removing the Confederate flag from the state capitol after a mass shooting on black churchgoers in Charleston in 2015
- She did not initially endorse Mr Trump during the 2016 campaign, instead backing Florida Senator Marco Rubio
- Mrs Haley is married to Army National Guard Captain Michael Haley, and the couple have two teenage children
Mrs Haley’s letter of resignation said: “I expect to continue to speak out from time to time on important public policy matters, but I will surely not be a candidate for any office in 2020.”
Her announcement comes a day after an anti-corruption watchdog group called for a federal investigation into her.
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington said she had accepted seven luxury private plane trips as gifts from South Carolina business leaders.
The group said she had undervalued the cost of the flights between Washington, New York, and South Carolina by tens of thousands of dollars in her annual financial disclosure report.
She has just served as temporary president of the UN Security Council for a month.
In April, Mrs Haley clashed with the White House when a Trump aide suggested she had prematurely announced a round of sanctions against Russia.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow suggested she had got “ahead of the curve” and had a “momentary confusion”.
But she fired back hours later telling Fox News: “With all due respect, I don’t get confused.”
The daughter of immigrants from India, Mrs Haley was a frequent critic of Mr Trump during his election campaign.
She had said that women who accused him of sexual assault “should be heard”.
At one point she suggested that Mr Trump’s rhetoric could trigger a world war.
BBC New York correspondent Nick Bryant said Mrs Haley had formed a partnership with UN General Secretary Antonio Guterres to protect the UN against Mr Trump’s anti-globalist agenda.
Her with-us-or-against-us approach grated on many diplomats, but she was widely considered to be an internationalist ally, our correspondent adds.
Republican lawmakers swiftly praised Mrs Haley after the news broke.
Retiring Speaker of the House Paul Ryan said: “She challenged friend and foe to be better.”
South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham said she had been “a true agent of reform” at the UN.