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Frank McKenna in Washington, Monday.

Former New Brunswick premier Frank McKenna rejected a run for the Liberal leadership on Monday, saying he doesn't want his life to be consumed by politics.

During 15 years as a politician in New Brunswick, including 10 as premier, "I became addicted to my responsibilities," McKenna said during a press conference in Washington.

He said his life became unbalanced, and after leaving the premier's job in 1997, he vowed "having escaped the trap, I wouldn't go back for the cheese."

McKenna was seen as a potential star candidate to replace Paul Martin, but "in my heart of hearts, I will have no regrets" not running for the leadership, he said.

McKenna also pointed out that winning the Liberal leadership would mean a 10-year commitment.

McKenna used the press conference to talk about his work in Washington, and make political comments he couldn't make during the election.

The U.S.-Canada relationship is good, and there has been progress on many files, he said. That appeared to contradict Conservative claims that the Liberals had damaged the relationship.

But the tone of top leaders could be better, McKenna said, in a possible reference to Liberals being less-than-civil while commenting about Americans, including President George W. Bush.

McKenna also said the ambassador to Washington is properly a political appointment because Washington deals in power, and it helps an ambassador if it's known he is close to the prime minister.

He sometimes spoke to Martin several times a day, and his replacement will need the same kind of relationship with Conservative leader and prime minister-designate Stephen Harper.

Lots of candidates

There is a long list of potential candidates for the Liberal leadership.

The winner will head a party that is reeling from a defeat in the Jan. 23 election, when the Conservatives won enough seats to form a minority government.

Martin announced his resignation on election night, setting off the speculation about who would run for the party leadership.

John Manley, a former Liberal cabinet minister and once considered a potential party leader, has also said he won't run, citing personal reasons.

McKenna didn't indicate what he would do next. "There's lots to do," he said.