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The Times says …

In its lead editorial Monday, The Times newspaper said UK Defence Secretary Liam Fox owed the country “an explanation and an apology” for having given unparalleled official access to the Ministry of Defence and talks overseas to Adam Werrity, a close friend.

The editorial adds:

“Many questions have been asked in the past week about the nature of Dr Fox’s previous business relationship with Mr Werrity. What is of more concern is the record of Mr Werrity’s business dealings with other people and governments. In particular, Mr Werrity has been deeply involved with the Government of Sri Lanka, and aided Dr Fox in private meetings and discussions with President Rajapaksa.

Those meetings have rightly caused considerable unease in Whitehall. ... Mr Rajapaksa has been accused of direct implication in the deaths of up to 20,000 Tamil civilians in the final weeks of the war. In response to legitimate concern from the Foreign Office, Dr Fox insisted he met Mr Rajapaksa in a purely “private” capacity.

But such foreign policy freelancing undermines not only the Foreign Secretary, but any notion of Cabinet collective responsibility. It is all the more dangerous if there is any whiff of corruption. And the smell of corruption, political and economic, within the Sri Lankan armed forces is strong.”

The Times' editorial echoes the criticism Tamil Guardian made at the time of Dr. Fox’s insistence on meeting with President Rajapaksa even as the UK government pointedly kept a distance:

“No sooner had Britain shut the front door on an alleged war criminal, and rightly so, the defence secretary was sneaking out the back to meet him. Dr. Fox’s rendezvous with the Sri Lankan President at the latter’s luxury hotel, and his planned visit to Sri Lanka - ostensibly a ‘personal’ one to deliver a speech – also underline an irresponsible disregard for Britain’s new emphasis in its foreign policy of human rights.

An elected British representative today bears responsibilities beyond Westminster. There can be no place for 'personal' or individual interest when a UK defence secretary meets a head of state, especially one alleged by credible international voices to have command responsibility for war crimes.”

See the full text here: ‘Fox single-handedly undermines Britain's authority’ (16 Dec 2010).

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