Coulson visited UK's Cameron after quitting govt job

LONDON Fri Jul 15, 2011 2:13pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters) - Former News Of The World editor Andy Coulson visited Prime Minister David Cameron in March two months after quitting as his communications chief, an aide to Cameron said.

Coulson, who quit his government post in January because of allegations of phone hacking during his tenure in charge of the tabloid, was arrested on Friday in an affair which has resulted in the closure of the News International top-selling newspaper.

A list of meetings with media executives released by Cameron's office on Friday showed News Corp boss Rupert Murdoch was the first proprietor to be granted an audience with the new prime minister in May 2010 -- one of about 20 engagements with top News Corp staff.

Rebekah Brooks, who resigned on Friday as chief executive of Murdoch's UK newspaper arm, has met Cameron on five separate occasions since May 2010, according to the list. Murdoch's son James has had two audiences with the prime minister.

Opposition Labour accused Cameron of poor judgment by hosting Coulson at his official country residence.

"He hosted Andy Coulson at Chequers after, in the prime minister's own words, Mr Coulson's second chance hadn't worked out," Labour culture spokesman Ivan Lewis said.

"David Cameron may think that this is a good day to bury bad news but he now has an increasing number of serious questions to answer," he added.

Cameron said last week that Coulson had become a friend during the four years they worked together. However, he said that Coulson must face the legal consequences if he had lied over accusations he did not know about phone hacking during his time as editor of the News of the World.

Cameron's office put out a 3-page list of engagements with proprietors, editors and senior media executives since he took office in May 2010. During that time, he also met Paul Dacre, editor of the Daily Mail mid-market tabolid, twice and editor of the left-leaning Guardian, Alan Rusbridger, once.

(Reporting by Matt Falloon and Keith Weir)

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