EU slams Malawi 's decision to expel British envoy

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The European Union on Wednesday slammed as "unjustified and inappropriate" Malawi's decision to expel the British high commissioner, Fergus Cochrane-Dyet.

"The European Union (EU) believes that the decision of the government of Malawi, which is apparently based on unconfirmed media reports and perceived criticisms of the government, is unjustified and inappropriate," it said in a statement sent to AFP.

The statement was released after Cochrane-Dyet, who criticised President Bingu wa Mutharika on governance issues in a leaked diplomatic cable published by the weekly Nation earlier this month, was declared "persona non-grata" by the Lilongwe administration.

The EU "confirms its strong commitment to the people of Malawi and expresses its wish to maintain open and friendly relations with the Government of Malawi."

In a tit-for-tat move, British Foreign Secretary William Hague expelled the acting high commissioner of Malawi after what he called the "unacceptable" expulsion of London's envoy in Lilongwe.

Cochrane-Dyet in the cable said that "the governance situation continues to deteriorate in terms of media freedom, freedom of speech and minority rights.

Malawi gained its independence from Britain in 1964 and London remains the biggest bilateral donor to the impoverished African nation, where half the 13 million citizens live and on less than a dollar a day.

© 2011 AFP

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