WASHINGTON—U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Carlos Pascual, who criticized his host government’s handling of the drug problem in a cable divulged by the WikiLeaks website, has resigned, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday.

President Felipe Calderon, who met earlier this month with Obama at the White House, had taken umbrage publicly in February over remarks Pascual made in a diplomatic cable about the Mexicans’ handling of the anti-drug trafficking effort there. The diplomatic document was among tens of thousands disclosed by the WikiLeaks website.

Clinton took the unusual step of announcing the departure of an individual member of the diplomatic corps, and while she was on the road, meeting with U.S. allies in Paris on the commencement of bombing strikes against Moammar Gadhafi’s Libya. The announcement also came as President Barack Obama was concluding the first day of a five-day trip to Latin America. Pascual had been a member of the administration of President Bill Clinton.

In a newspaper interview published in late February, Calderon said that U.S.-Mexico relations had been strained because of the leaks of cables.

He specifically cited Pascual’s cable, which he suggested was disparaging of Mexico. The cable said there was little co-ordination among Mexican federal agencies assigned to battle drug gangs, including Mexico’s army, navy and federal police. The Mexican president said in the interview with El Universal that the cables show U.S. diplomats are ignorant about Mexico’s security situation and are prone to distort and exaggerate “to get their bosses’ attention.”

Calderon said at the time that the U.S. government should help Mexico’s fight against drug gangs by reducing drug use in the United States, the biggest consumer of illegal drugs in the world, and by stemming the flow of automatic rifles to the cartels.

Clinton did not specifically cite Pascual’s cable in a detailed statement released by the State Department late Saturday. But she did say in the statement that the ambassador had related to her and Obama his decision to return to Washington “based upon his personal desire to ensure the strong relationship between our two countries and to avert issues raised by President Calderon that could distract from the important business of advancing our bilateral interests.”

She said that Obama and she “are particularly grateful to Carlos for his efforts to sustain the morale and security of American personnel after tragic shootings in Mexico that killed four people from our extended family in the past year.”

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