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Eric Holder to stay on as attorney general

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Attorney General Eric Holder, a lightning rod of criticism from Republicans, is staying on in his job as President Barack Obama starts his second term.

A White House official said on Wednesday that Holder is among the Cabinet members who will remain in their position. He has been working on Vice President Joe Biden's task force on finding ways to reduce gun violence after last month's mass killing in Newtown, Connecticut.

It is rare for an attorney general to serve more than four years.

The country's top law enforcement officer has been the target of fierce criticism from Republicans, who tried to oust him after a botched department operation called "Fast and Furious" that targeted gun trafficking along the U.S.-Mexico border.

The U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives allowed more than 2,000 weapons to illegally slip into Mexico.

The operation was brought to light when a U.S. border patrol agent was killed in December 2010 in Arizona and two guns connected with the case were found at the scene of the shootout.

It is unclear how much longer Holder plans to work for the Democratic president. There has been speculation that he might stay for six months to a year.

Holder has joined Biden in holding talks with various interest groups on how to cut down on mass shootings. The Biden group is expected to recommend a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips along with making background checks universal for all gun purchasers.

"He remains focused on his job, as illustrated by his involvement in the gun violence sessions," said a Holder aide.

(Reporting By Steve Holland and David Ingram, Editing by Alistair Bell and Xavier Briand)

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