VETERAN war correspondent Kate Adie is quitting her job with the BBC, 35 years after joining the corporation in the North-East.

The Sunderland-born broadcaster, who became a familiar figure reporting from the world's troublespots, is stepping down after 24 years as chief news correspondent.

Yesterday's announcement was made as the BBC and other news organisations geared up to send reporters to the Gulf for the anticipated conflict in Iraq.

Adie, 57, cut her broadcasting teeth with fledgling Radio Durham after graduating from Newcastle University.

She has become established as one of the BBC's best-known reporters, but has made fewer appearances on television in recent years.

A BBC spokeswoman said the decision to leave was "mutual".

She is expected to continue working for the corporation on BBC World and on programmes such as Radio 4's From Our Own Correspondent.

During her career, she has broadcast from hot spots such as Rwanda, Libya, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and the Middle East, winning awards for reports of the Tiananmen Square uprising, in China, and the US bombing of Tripoli.

The BBC's director of news Richard Sambrook last night paid tribute to Adie but said he is pleased she will continue to work with the corporation.

"Kate Adie is one of the greatest correspondents of our time.

"During the course of the past year, she and I have been in discussions as to how she might work on a wider range of BBC programmes and agreed that moving to freelance status would allow her this flexibility."

Educated at Sunderland High School for Girls, Adie went on to Newcastle University, working on student newspapers, before graduating in Scandinavian studies.

She joined the BBC as a studio technician as preparations were under way for one of its first local radio stations, in Durham, a forerunner to Radio Newcastle and Cleveland.

Based at the station's Park House studios, in Merryoaks, now a hospice, she reported on everything from Northern League football to fetes and charity events.