British defence minister denies burglary cover-up

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British defence minister Liam Fox rejected calls to resign Wednesday over his links to the best man at his wedding, while facing fresh trouble over claims of a cover-up over a burglary at his house.

Fox has been under pressure for days over his former flatmate Adam Werritty, who posed as his advisor and accompanied him on 18 overseas trips to countries including Sri Lanka and Dubai, despite having no governmental official role.

As Fox, 50, caught a train from London to Paris where he was due to hold talks with his French counterpart, he said he had no intention of standing down amid the controversy over the 34-year-old Werritty.

"I shall carry on doing the job that I am meant to do, the job that I am paid for," the defence secretary told reporters.

But in a new twist, Fox was forced to deny that his ruling Conservative party had lied about a break-in at his London home last year, when it said he had been alone in the house at the time.

The Sun newspaper reported that a "younger man" had been staying the night at the apartment when thieves broke in and took a laptop, a mobile phone and the keys to Fox's car.

In a statement, Fox said he was "appalled at being portrayed as having something to hide".

"As I told the police at the time, a friend was staying in the guest room. My wife was stranded in Hong Kong due to the ash cloud. For the sake of clarity it was not Adam Werritty," he said.

Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers Wednesday that Fox was doing an "excellent job", and reiterated that he had ordered the head of Britain's civil service to investigate Fox's conduct.

Civil servants questioned Werritty on Tuesday over why he posed as an advisor, the number of trips he made with Fox, and how he was able to pay for them despite registering few earnings over the past four years.

Fox was backed by employment minister Chris Grayling, who dismissed the "wild gossip" about the defence secretary's personal life.

Asked on BBC radio about rumours the defence secretary is gay -- which Fox branded "smears" in a 2005 interview -- Grayling said: "I've known Liam for many years, I've known Liam and his wife, they've always struck me as being a very happily married couple."

© 2011 AFP

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