Chief Political Correspondent
John Major yesterday said the Home Secretary was right to order the expulsion of the Saudi dissident Mohamed al Masari from Britain because he posed a threat to stability in the Gulf.
The Prime Minister's remarks supporting the controversial move by Michael Howard are likely to be challenged by Mr Masari in court. He is seeking judicial review to overturn the Home Secretary's order to expel him to the Caribbean island of Dominica on 19 January.
Other ministers have linked the expulsion to the threat to British export orders for arms by the Saudi government and have admitted Mr Masari has done nothing illegal.
But Mr Major raised the stakes by warning that Mr Masari's campaign by fax to bring down the Saudi royal family could debstabilise the region. "Michael Howard was right to order his deportation. Mr al Masari is an illegal immigration who has used his hospitality in this country to wage a campaign to try and bring down the Saudi Arabian regime. Saudi Arabia is critical to the stability of the complete Gulf," Mr Major said.
"I believe that people who come here as illegal immigrants ... if they abuse that position and seek to create an unsettled relationship with our allies, I don't believe we should tolerantly look to one side," Mr Major added.
Saudi Arabia's defence minister, Prince Sultan, also threatened yesterday to remove Mr Masari's Saudi citizenship. "Saudi citizenship is abolished when one shuns his religion, beliefs and country," Prince Sultan said in Riyadh, the Saudi Arabian capital.
A leaked internal memo from Sir Colin Chandler, chief executive of defence company Vickers, to a colleague, recorded the view in intelligence and business circles that "direct Saudi intervention" against Dr Masari could be "difficult" as he was the son of a cleric.
Dr Masari said on GMTV: "It is a polite way of saying it ... the meaning here must be assumed to be kidnapping or assassination." But he added he did not believe Sir Colin was involved in any such plot.
Dr Masari said he understood the Government's dilemma, particularly as jobs could be at stake."I hope from the bottom of my heart it has been for job protection, not for a few big interests who are out to make a quick buck," he said.