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WASHINGTON, Sept 6, 2009 (AFP) — President Barack Obama’s special adviser for green jobs has resigned under pressure from leading Republican politicians and revelations about his controversial past statements.

Van Jones, a former civil rights activist from California, had been working for the White House Council on Environmental Quality since March.

“I am resigning my post at the Council on Environmental Quality, effective today,” Jones said in a statement dated September 5 but released shortly after midnight on September 6.

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Jones went on the say that on the eve of historic fights for health care and clean energy, “opponents of reform have mounted a vicious smear campaign” against him.

“They are using lies and distortions to distract and divide,” he continued. “But I came here to fight for others, not for myself. I cannot in good conscience ask my colleagues to expend precious time and energy defending or explaining my past. We need all hands on deck, fighting for the future.”

Jones became the focus of public attention last week when it was revealed that he had signed a petition that questioned whether officials in the administration of former president George W. Bush “may indeed have deliberately allowed 9/11 to happen, perhaps as a pretext for war.”

It was also revealed that Jones used a crude term to describe Republicans in a speech he gave before joining the administration.

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As a result, several prominent Republicans demanded action against Jones. Republican Representative Mike Pence on Friday called on Jones to resign or be fired.

Jones’ “extremist views and coarse rhetoric have no place in this administration or the public debate,” Pence said.

White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said on the ABC show “This Week” that Obama thanked Jones for his service, and for “helping to coordinate renewable energy jobs that are going to lay the foundation for our future economic growth.”

When asked whether Obama had wanted Jones to resign, Gibbs was evasive.

“The president and the CEQ accepted his resignation because Van Jones, as he says in his statement, understood that he was going to get in the way of the president and ultimately this country moving forward on something as important as creating jobs in a clean energy economy.”

Howard Dean, former Democratic National Committee chair, said he spoke to Jones, a Yale-educated lawyer and bestselling author, about the controversy and lamented his departure.

“I think he was brought down. It’s too bad,” Dean, a former presidential contender, told Fox News.

“Washington is a tough place that way and I think it’s a loss for the country.”

With respect to the petition, Dean said that Jones had made the mistake of signing it without reading it carefully.

“He was told by the people waving those clipboards around he was signing something else,” the former Vermont governor said.

“I don’t think he really thinks the government had anything to do with causing 9/11.”

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