U.K. envoy: Bush the best recruiter for al-Qaida
Italian media report ambassador's remarks at private conference
Updated: 7:22 a.m. ET Sept. 20, 2004
ROME - Britain’s ambassador to Italy described President Bush as “the best recruiting sergeant” for al-Qaida, Italian media reported on Monday.
The comment, made at a closed-door conference at the weekend, was denounced by one leading Italian newspaper editor, who issued an open letter snubbing the veteran ambassador, Sir Ivor Roberts.
Roberts was quoted as telling an annual Anglo-Italian gathering in Tuscany, “If anyone is ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it’s al-Qaida.”
Corriere della Sera newspaper said Roberts also told the meeting of British and Italian policy-makers, “Bush is al-Qaida’s best recruiting sergeant.”
The British Embassy in Rome declined to comment about the remarks, saying the Tuscan conference had been covered by the so-called Chatham House Rules, which means that anything said by delegates should remain off the record.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair along with Italy's Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi have been Bush’s strongest allies in Europe.
Giuliano Ferrara, outspoken editor of the conservative Il Foglio broadsheet, wrote an open letter saying he would boycott a previously scheduled dinner with the ambassador on Monday.
“The dinner unfortunately would be a complete waste of time and a grotesque hypocrisy,” he said.
Ferrara added that he would prefer to have supper with the French ambassador to Italy “who loyally represents in Rome Mr. Jacques Chirac.”
Ferrara is a fervent supporter of the U.S.-led war on Iraq.
Roberts was British ambassador to Yugoslavia in the mid-1990s, helping negotiations between the international community and Yugoslav authorities. He then served as British ambassador to Ireland before his Italian posting.
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