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Rebekah Brooks discusses links to British PM Cameron in phone hacking inquiry

Rebekah Brooks, former CEO of Rupert Murdoch's News International, talked about her relationship with British Prime Minister David Cameron and former prime minister Tony Blair in testimony Friday before the Leveson inquiry.

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Public revulsion over the hacking of Dowler's phone led Murdoch to shut down the 168-year-old News of the World in July, and saw Cameron set up the ethics inquiry, led by Lord Justice Brian Leveson.

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Cameron has previously acknowledged that he has known Brooks' husband Charlie for 30 years and that he had ridden on a retired police horse that had been loaned to Brooks.

She told the inquiry that Blair, his wife and advisers "were a constant presence in my life for many years" and said the ex-leader had also offered support when she quit. Blair was among the political heavyweights who attended her 40th birthday party, hosted at Murdoch's home, she said.

In 2003, as editor of The Sun, Brooks said her newspaper's support for Britain's role in the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq saw their relationship deepen.

"During the Iraq war, I spent more time than usual talking to Tony Blair and Downing Street," she said. Public opinion was divided in Britain over the war, with large numbers opposed to Blair's decision to join the conflict.

Blair's successor Gordon Brown, however, was "incredibly aggressive and angry" after The Sun ditched its support for his Labour Party before Britain's 2010 election — which Brown lost. As other politicians sent texts after she quit, Brown "was probably getting the bunting (banners) out," Brooks joked with a smile.

His wife Sarah Brown, however, was part of a social circle that also included Brooks, Elisabeth Murdoch — Murdoch's daughter — and Wendi Deng, Murdoch's wife.

However, Brooks insisted politicians did not court her in an effort to get closer to Murdoch.

Evidence from Brooks raised new doubts over Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt's handling of a decision on whether News Corp. should be authorized to take full control of British Sky Broadcasting, a satellite broadcaster in which Murdoch's company already holds a 39 percent stake.

Hunt had been supposed to be acting as an impartial judge to decide whether to approve the takeover or refer it to regulators. But the ethics inquiry previously published 163 emails sent by News Corp. lobbyist Frederic Michel which alleged that either Hunt or his office had leaked sensitive information to Murdoch's company and had indicated their support of the News Corp. takeover case.

An adviser to Hunt has since resigned.

Brooks said in one email she had received, Michel claimed that Hunt had "asked me to advise him privately in the coming weeks and guide his and No.10's (Cameron's office) positioning."

However, she acknowledged she believed the lobbyist sometimes exaggerated. Hunt's office said he "behaved with integrity on every issue."

Murdoch dropped the takeover bid for BSkyB in mid-2011, after the furor over phone hacking.

Hunt is scheduled to give evidence to the inquiry at a later date.

RELATED: News Corp. phone-hacking inquiry: 8 names you need to know

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