This is a file picture of US Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in Washington on July 24, 2007. [AP]
Washington - Alberto Gonzales, the United States' first Hispanic attorney general, announced his resignation Monday, ending a wrenching standoff with congressional critics over his honesty and competence at the helm of the US Justice Department.
Republicans and Democrats alike had demanded his resignation over the botched handling of FBI terror investigations and the firings of US attorneys, but President Bush had defiantly stood by his Texas friend until accepting his resignation last Friday.
"It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice," Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective Sept. 17 in a terse statement. He took no questions and gave no reason for stepping down.
Bush planned to discuss Gonzales' departure later Monday.
Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general until a replacement is found, said administration officials who spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting the announcement.
Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was among those mentioned as possible successors, though a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. Bush leaves Washington next Monday for Australia, and Gonzales' replacement might not be named by then, the official said.
"Better late than never," said Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, summing up the response of many to the resignation.
Republicans welcomed the departure of the embattled attorney general, some quietly and others publicly so.
"The attorney general's decision to step down is a positive step forward for the Department of Justice," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.
"Attorney General Gonzales' ability to lead the Department of Justice had been undermined by his serious errors in judgment and conflicting statements," she said in a statement.
Gonzales, formerly Bush's White House counsel, served more than two years at the Justice Department In announcing his decision, Gonzales reflected on his up-from-the-bootstraps life story; he's the son of migrant farm workers from Mexico who didn't finish elementary school.
"Even my worst days as attorney general have been better than my father's best days," Gonzales said.
Bush steadfastly -- and at times angrily -- refused to give in to critics, even from his own GOP, who argued that Gonzales should go.
Earlier this month at a news conference, the US president grew irritated when asked about accountability in his administration and turned the tables on the Democratic Congress.