Britain recalls Congo envoy

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The Independent Online
THE ROW between Britain and Congo over allegations of spying escalated yesterday with the announcement the British ambassador was being recalled.

The move is seen as a signal to the government of President Laurent Kabila that London is not prepared to back down in its stance over the expulsion of six diplomats and officials the Congolese accuse of espionage.

The Foreign Office, which denies that the men, five Britons and an American on attachment to British authorities, were engaged in undercover work, said yesterday: "We are recalling the ambassador for consultations. We are taking the situation very seriously and are considering our response."

The expelled six are now in Zimbabwe and arrangements were being made for their return to London. The Foreign Office maintains they were working out contingency plans for the evacuation of around 150 British nationals against a background of worsening security situation, due to the country's civil war.

The men were issued with expulsion orders by the Interior Minister, Gaetan Kakudji, on Wednesday after being stopped near Ndolo airport, near Kinshasa city centre, and held under house arrest. The Congolese claimed the group had cameras and several maps with strategic positions marked.

There has been increasing suspicion of foreigners in Congo as the rebel forces fighting the Kabila regime make significant gains. The government claims the rebels, who are backed by Rwanda and Uganda, are being helped by Western mercenaries.

One of those arrested, Gregor Lusty, Third Secretary at the British Embassy, was described by the Congolese as the "guide of the undercover group". The Foreign Office said he had merely been escorting a team of British soldiers and diplomats on a "routine" tour.

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