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Bush is Al-Qaeda's Best Recruiting Sergeant

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Critical private remarks by the British ambassador in Rome about US President George W Bush have been leaked by the Italian media.


A leading daily newspaper has quoted Sir Ivor Roberts as calling Mr Bush "al-Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant."


Sir Ivor reportedly made the comment at a yearly meeting of British and Italian political and business leaders on Sunday.


Remarks at the conference are usually considered off the record.


If anyone's ready to celebrate the eventual re-election of Bush, it is none other than al-Qaeda," Sir Ivor was quoted as saying by the Corriere della Sera newspaper.


It reported he also told the meeting of British and Italian politicians, bankers, academics and journalists in Tuscany: "Bush is al-Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant."


The paper said the comments confirmed members of Tony Blair's government were beginning to have second thoughts about the war in Iraq.


The BBC's correspondent in Rome, David Willey, says everything said at the meeting is understood by delegates to be off the record under conference rules.


The publication of the ambassador's remarks, which are contrary to official British and Italian government policy of supporting the Americans in Iraq, has caused a small diplomatic flurry.


Giuliano Ferrara, the editor of the conservative Il Foglio newspaper and a former adviser to Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, has cancelled a plan to attend a dinner at Sir Ivor's residence on Monday night.


"The dinner unfortunately would be a complete waste of time and a grotesque hypocrisy," he said in an open letter.


"I would rather sup with the French ambassador, who loyally represents his government in Rome."


The British embassy in Rome has declined to comment on the paper's reporting of the remarks.


Sir Ivor was British ambassador to Yugoslavia and Ireland before his posting to Italy.

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Fucking Crazies


>Critical private remarks by the British ambassador in Rome

>about US President George W Bush have been leaked by the

>Italian media.


>A leading daily newspaper has quoted Sir Ivor Roberts as

>calling Mr Bush "al-Qaeda's best recruiting sergeant."


Meanwhile, today's Guardian reports:



A furious row has broken out over claims in a new book by BBC broadcaster James Naughtie that US Secretary of State Colin Powell described neo-conservatives in the Bush administration as 'fucking crazies' during the build-up to war in Iraq.


Powell's extraordinary outburst is alleged to have taken place during a telephone conversation with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw. The two became close friends during the intense negotiations in the summer of 2002 to build an international coalition for intervention via the United Nations. The 'crazies' are said to be Vice-President Dick Cheney, Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his deputy, Paul Wolfowitz.


Last week, the offices of Powell and Straw contacted Public Affairs, the US publishers of Naughtie's book, to say they would vigorously deny the claims if publication went ahead. But as no legal action was threatened, the US launch of the book, The Accidental American: Tony Blair and the Presidency, will proceed as planned this week.


Naughtie stands by his claims and is said to be privately delighted that Powell and Straw have reacted so violently to the suggestion that the former US general had fallen out with the 'neo-cons'.


Provocatively, the phrase 'fucking crazies' will be quoted on the jacket of the book, according to a source at the publisher. 'We were surprised to receive calls from the offices of Jack Straw and Colin Powell within 24 hours of each other,' the source said.


Naughtie claims that Powell and Straw spoke on an almost daily basis. Powell's concerns were said to have chimed with Straw's and those of Blair himself - that if America acted without UN sanction, allies would be lost.


Cheney and his allies were preparing for a spring war and did not wish to be deflected by the UN inspection process. Powell is thought to have been terrified that the strategy of the 'crazies' would alienate the Blair government, which believed it needed UN backing to win over Parliament and the British public.

John Kampfner, political editor of the New Statesman and author of Blair's Wars, said Naughtie's characterisation of the feverish political atmosphere of the summer of 2002 was entirely accurate. 'The British government saw Powell as the most significant voice of sanity in the US administration. At different times during this very difficult period, the Brits used Powell to get across their point of view to the White House. But, bizarrely, Powell sometimes also used Blair to pass messages to Bush.'


Kampfner's book, which covers the Blair government's military adventures in Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Afghanistan, as well as Iraq, reported that in July 2002 Blair sent his foreign policy adviser David Manning on a secret mission to Washington to deliver a letter hinting that, without a second UN resolution, Britain would not be able to join a war in Iraq.

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