Prime Minister David Cameron on Wednesday told parliament that he regretted hiring a former News of the World (NotW) editor at the heart of the scandal that has rocked Britain's press, police and politicians.
"On the decision to hire him (Andy Coulson)… Of course I regret (it) and I am extremely sorry about the furore it has caused," said the British leader who cut short his Africa visit to face parliament that had delayed its summer recess by a day to quiz him.
The 44-year-old PM is in the eye of a storm over his ties with Coulson and Rebekah Brooks, ex-chief executive of Rupert Murdoch's British subsidiary News International.
Both were arrested this month over the phone-hacking scandal but released without being charged.
Coulson quit Murdoch's NotW in 2007 after the hacking allegations first surfaced to become communications director for Cameron's Conservative party.
When Cameron became PM, Coulson was appointed the government's head of communications.
He resigned in January after it emerged that NotW, which printed its last edition on July 10, had hacked into the voicemails of a murdered schoolgirl, Milly Dowler.
Opposition Labour party has sought to link Cameron's friendship with Coulson and Brooks with Murdoch's now-abandoned bid to buy BSkyB, Britain's biggest pay-TV broadcaster.