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John and Elizabeth Edwards appear at a campaign rally in Ames, Iowa, in January 2008. Eight months later, John Edwards publicly admitted he had an extramarital affair while his wife was battling cancer. ((Paul Sancya/Associated Press))

Former U.S. presidential candidate John Edwards has backtracked on earlier denials and confirmed that he fathered a daughter in an extramarital relationship.

"It was wrong for me ever to deny she was my daughter and hopefully one day, when she understands, she will forgive me," John Edwards, the former senator from North Carolina, said Thursday.

Edwards was a candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004. He ultimately was Senator John Kerry's selection to be his vice-presidential running mate.

Edwards entered the race for presidential nominee again in December 2006, but quit the primaries in January 2008, and eventually backed now U.S. President Barack Obama.

Frances Quinn Hunter, who is almost two years old, was born to former Edwards campaign aide Rielle Hunter. Edwards hired Hunter as a videographer before his second run for the White House.

Edwards admitted in August 2008 that he had had an affair with Hunter. The baby girl was born on Feb. 27, 2008.

Last year, Edwards denied fathering the girl, and said he welcomed a paternity test. He also claimed that his affair with Hunter ended in 2006.

Issues apology

"I have been providing financial support for Quinn and have reached an agreement with her mother to continue providing support in the future," Edwards said in a statement to The Associated Press. "To all those I have disappointed and hurt, these words will never be enough, but I am truly sorry."

Another former Edwards aide, Andrew Young, initially said he was the father of the girl shortly before the 2008 presidential primaries started. Young has a book coming out on Feb. 2 that will detail the paternity scandal.

Edwards's wife, Elizabeth, who is battling incurable cancer, has stood by her husband throughout his revelations. They have three children together. Their first child, a son, died in a car accident in 1996.

She told The Associated Press Thursday that her "whole family feels relieved" now that her husband has come forward. She said she hopes the declaration will help end publicity around the family's matters.

Elizabeth Edwards has said it would not matter if her husband fathered a child with Hunter, saying "that would be a part of John's life, but not a part of mine."

She declined to talk about her marital status, saying, "My marriage shouldn't be on anybody's radar screen except mine."

Elizabeth Edwards's cancer returned in March 2007 in an incurable form. She said the cancer got worse for a period but has recently been improving, with some signs of tumors shrinking.

John Edwards has been living a mainly secluded life since he admitted the affair in 2008.

With files from The Associated Press