British PM backs defence minister in advisor row
British Prime Minister David Cameron offered his full support to Defence Secretary Liam Fox on Saturday after fresh allegations that he allowed a close friend to influence government business.
Several newspapers said Fox's former flatmate Adam Werritty had brokered a private meeting in Dubai in June between the defence secretary and a company hoping to sell phone call encryption technology to the British military.
Werritty set up the meeting by posing as an advisor to Fox, reports said, despite holding no official government role and not having security clearance.
No officials from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) were present during the talks, a ministry spokesman said.
The allegations come after Fox admitted this week that he met Werritty on an official visit to Sri Lanka in July, and the revelation that Werritty visited Fox 14 times in 16 months at the MoD in London.
Fox has denied suggestions that his friendship has threatened national security, but on Friday announced an inquiry led by a senior MoD official.
The row has completely overshadowed a visit made by Fox to Libya on Friday and Saturday for talks with members on the National Transitional Council, but Cameron offered his minister his full support.
The prime minister had "full confidence" in Fox, a member of his Conservative party, a spokesman for Cameron's Downing Street office said.
In response to the latest newspaper reports, the MoD said allegations of wrongdoing were "baseless" and pointed to the inquiry, which will report back in a few weeks.
But the opposition Labour party said the claims needed to be investigated by Cameron's office.
"There's a very serious issue here about conflict of interest and the ministerial code and the prime minister is the person who can authorise an inquiry into the ministerial code," Labour spokesman Jim Murphy told the BBC.
© 2011 AFP