UK envoy in Lebanon regrets 'offence' over Fadlallah blog

10th July 2010, Comments 0 comments

Britain's ambassador to Lebanon has said she regretted "any offence" caused by a controversial blog post in which she praised late Shiite cleric Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah.

"I am sorry that an attempt to acknowledge the spiritual significance ... and the views that he held in the latter part of his life has served only to further entrench divisions in this complex part of the world," Frances Guy wrote on her official Foreign Office blog.

"I regret any offence caused," Guy said in the blog entry, dated July 9 and entitled "The Problem with Diplomatic Blogging."

The British government said Friday it had taken down Guy's original blog posting in which she hailed Fadlallah as "a true man of religion," saying her views clashed with official policy.

"When you visited him you could be sure of a real debate, a respectful argument and you knew you would leave his presence feeling a better person," Guy wrote after Fadlallah's death last Sunday.

A Foreign Office spokesman said the ambassador had expressed a personal view that did not fully reflect government policy.

"While we welcomed his progressive views on women's rights and interfaith dialogue, we also had profound disagreements -- especially over his statements advocating attacks on Israel," the spokesman said.

Fadlallah, blacklisted by the United States as a terrorist, was a top authority in Shiite Islam and many followers revered him for his moderate social views, openness and pragmatism.

But he was also a fiery critic of the United States and Israel and was an advocate of suicide attacks as a means of fighting the Jewish state's occupation of Arab land.

Fadlallah's death has also spelled trouble for a senior editor with US television giant CNN.

Lebanese-born Octavia Nasr left her job last week after sending out a tweet praising him as "one of Hezbollah's giants I respect a lot."

"It was an error of judgment for me to write such a simplistic comment and I'm sorry because it conveyed that I supported Fadlallah's life's work," Nasr later wrote on her CNN blog. "That's not the case at all."

© 2010 AFP

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