Envoy in farce over contacting London

SIERRA LEONE
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The Independent Online
BRITAIN'S HIGH Commissioner to Sierra Leone was plunged into farce as he tried to communicate with his London headquarters after a coup, a Commons committee said yesterday. A secure fax machine shipped out to allow Peter Penfold to send confidential messages to the Foreign Office had to be returned because it would not fit through the door of his hotel room, the Intelligence and Security Committee learnt.

Mr Penfold could not work the satellite telephone provided and was reluctant to bother the honorary consul in Guinea.

The committee was looking into allegations that British intelligence officers were linked with the appointment of mercenaries to help to reinstate the Sierra Leone president, AhmadTejan Kabbah. Its report said the head of MI6, Sir David Spedding, had given "categorical assurances" that his service was not involved in any way with the counter-coup or with the military company, Sandline International.

The committee reserved its criticism for the failure of the Foreign Office to provide Mr Penfold with the equipment to do his job.

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