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German minister quits in tip-off scandal

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BERLIN (AP) — A German minister has resigned after it emerged that he tipped off another senior politician about an investigation involving a prominent lawmaker.

Hans-Peter Friedrich said Friday he is quitting as agriculture minister. The criticism involved Friedrich's previous role as interior minister: he has acknowledged telling the leader of Germany's center-left Social Democrats last October that lawmaker Sebastian Edathy's name had come up in an investigation.

Edathy resigned his seat last week, days before police searched his home and offices.

Hannover prosecutors say the case involves alleged ordering of pictures of underage boys, though it's unclear whether they legally constitute child porn. Edathy denies ordering or possessing child porn.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

A German Cabinet minister who tipped off another senior politician of a probe involving a prominent lawmaker said Friday that he will resign if prosecutors decide to investigate him.

Lawmaker Sebastian Edathy of the center-left Social Democrats resigned his seat last week, citing health reasons, days before police searched his home and offices.

The head of the Hannover prosecutors' office, Joerg Froehlich, said the case centers on alleged ordering of pictures of underage boys, though it's not clear whether they legally constitute child porn. Edathy denies ordering or possessing child porn.

On Thursday, it emerged that Hans-Peter Friedrich in October, when he was Germany's interior minister, told the leader of Social Democrats that Edathy's name had come up in an investigation. That came as Friedrich's conservatives were in negotiations with the Social Democrats on forming a new coalition government, which took office just before Christmas.

Friedrich is now agriculture minister, while Social Democrat leader Sigmar Gabriel is vice chancellor. Opposition parties called for Friedrich's resignation, arguing that he improperly passed on confidential information. Hannover prosecutors have said they were surprised by this week's revelations and were discussing "possible consequences."

Friedrich said in a brief statement that he was "convinced of having acted properly, both politically and legally." He added, however, that he will give up his job "if prosecutors come to different conclusions and open an investigation."

The minister's spokesman, Jens Teschke, said Friedrich had been informed by a lower-ranking official that "there was a list connected to foreign investigations that included" Edathy's name. He said Friedrich had asked whether child porn was involved, but was told it wasn't and that there were no criminal accusations at that point.

Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said Merkel only found out about the investigation of Edathy this Tuesday and from media reports.

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