Syrian envoy's invite to British royal wedding sparks row
Britain faced a growing outcry Thursday for inviting the Syrian ambassador to the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton despite a violent crackdown on protesters in the Arab state.
Royal officials and Britain's Foreign Office both confirmed Sami Khiyami was on the guest list for Friday's wedding -- a service that former British prime ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been excluded from.
Britain had on Wednesday summoned Khiyami to the Foreign Office in a coordinated action with four other European nations to condemn the "unacceptable use of force against protesters."
"Those countries with which we have normal diplomatic relations and ambassadors in London are invited to the wedding, and whilst we have strong disagreements with many of those countries, this remains the case," a Foreign Office spokeswoman told AFP.
A British government source told AFP on condition of anonymity that the final decision on invitations to the wedding remained with Prince William and Kate Middleton "although we do advise".
A spokesman for St James's Palace, the official residence of William and his brother and best man Prince Harry, insisted that it had consulted with the British government before issuing the invitation to the Syrian diplomat.
"All heads of mission in London from countries with which the UK has normal diplomatic relations have been invited to the wedding. This has obviously been done in consultation with the Foreign Office," the spokesman told AFP.
Rights groups say at least 453 civilians have been killed in Syria since protests against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad first erupted in mid-March.
The invitation was front-page news in several British newspapers on Thursday.
Former foreign secretary Jack Straw questioned the invitation for the Syrian ambassador and said he was "surprised" Blair and Brown had not been invited.
"In retrospect I think the decision-makers probably would have made some different decisions both in respect of former prime ministers and in respect of the number of ambassadors being invited," he told BBC radio.
© 2011 AFP