The Bush administration withdrew the Supreme Court nomination of White House counsel Harriet Miers, bowing to intensifying attacks from right-leaning activists challenging the depth of her conservative credentials and the strength of her judicial qualifications.

The decision was sealed in a phone call between Miers and President Bush on Wednesday night, and abruptly reopened the search for a successor to the pivotal seat held by retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Bush said he will name a new candidate in a "timely manner."

Miers's withdrawal touched off a fresh wave of speculation about whom Bush would nominate for the seat.

Some conservative activists predict Bush will reconsider some previously thought to be in the running, including federal appellate judges Samuel A. Alito Jr., J. Michael Luttig, Karen J. Williams, Michael W. McConnell and Priscilla R. Owen. Another federal judge mentioned is Diane S. Sykes.

The debacle of Miers's nomination comes as the administration is confronted with the indictment of Vice President Cheney's chief of staff I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby in the CIA leak investigation. Libby resigned Friday, and Special Counsel Patrick J. Fitzgerald said the investigation would continue, leaving open the possibility that other administration officials would be charged. The White House is also dealing growing public restiveness over the war in Iraq.

Republicans say the president's selection must placate conservatives, reassert his control over the selection process and meet Senate approval.

-- Michael A. Fletcher

and Charles Babington

Unable to gain enough Senate support for her Supreme Court nomination, Harriet Miers backed out. She will keep her job as White House counsel.