Kerry confers premature knighthood on departing friend Hague

WASHINGTON Tue Jul 15, 2014 7:45pm EDT

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) at talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program in Vienna, July 13, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Bourg

British Foreign Secretary William Hague (L) meets with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry (R) at talks between the foreign ministers of the six powers negotiating with Tehran on its nuclear program in Vienna, July 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Bourg

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday heaped praise on William Hague after his resignation as British foreign secretary, and even went as far as conferring on him a premature knighthood via Twitter.

"Will miss working so closely with my friend Sir William -- when @WilliamJHague spoke, we all listened," Kerry said in a tweet on his page on the social media site, to which a photograph of the two men was attached.

Hague has not been knighted - an honor normally bestowed by the British monarch, Queen Elizabeth, and which carries with it the title "Sir." It is an honor often given to statesmen, as well as other distinguished citizens from business leaders to entertainers.

Hague said on Monday he was stepping down from his post as Britain's top diplomat after four years in the job, an unexpected move prompted by a government reshuffle by Prime Minister David Cameron.

He will become leader of the House of Commons, coordinating the government's business in the lower house of Britain's parliament.

Earlier, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman, Jen Psaki, said the "excellent working relationship" Kerry had with Hague "exemplified the U.S.-U.K. special relationship."

Britain was the first country Kerry visited when he became secretary of state last year and Hague was the first foreign minister to receive him.

Psaki said the United States believed relations with Britain would remain equally strong under Hague's successor, Philip Hammond, the former defense minister and a prominent Euro skeptic.

Psaki avoided being drawn when asked if the United States was concerned about Hammond's outspoken criticism of the European Union, a 28-nation grouping Washington supports as an entity.

"I think we'll leave that to domestic politics in the U.K," she said.

(Reporting by David Brunnstrom; Editing by David Storey and Dan Grebler)

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