Beckett's criticisms of US censored by her own staff

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The Independent Online

It seems that Margaret Beckett's unexpected castigation of the United States has proved too much for Government policy wonks more closely aligned with Washington.

The Foreign Secretary - facing questions over her performance just two months into the job - last week criticised the US for using a Scottish airport to transport laser-guided bombs to Israel.

It was revealed that two US planes carrying American-made bombs had stopped off to refuel at Prestwick Airport near Glasgow, apparently unbeknown to the British Government.

Israel requested the munitions to use in attacks on Hizbollah militants in Lebanon. It has killed scores of Lebanese civilians.

Questioned by Channel 4 News anchorman Jon Snow, Beckett said the US was "seriously at fault" for failing to declare the flights' cargos.

"We are still looking into the facts but I have already notified the United States that we are not happy about it," she told him, adding that she planned to make a formal protest should a satisfactory explanation not be forthcoming.

A transcript of the Beckett-Snow interview was then posted on the Foreign Office website, presumably for any members of the electorate wishing to keep up to speed on the escalating crisis in the Middle East. The transcript has curiously been purged of her outspoken remarks.

"You're reading too much into this," says a spokesman. "We use the website to post key foreign policy issues. The key issue was the Lebanon crisis. It is a perfectly innocent explanation."

From sex to Shaw: porn stars take to theatre

Debbie may be able to "do" Dallas, but Christopher Biggins seems optimistic she will prove similarly popular in the West End; the actor will later this month travel to Heathrow airport to take collection of four Los Angeles porn stars.

As part of a series for America's Fox network, Biggins then has three weeks to transform them into accomplished thespians who are capable of treading London's stage boards to the scripts of Shakespeare, Shaw, Wilde and Chekhov. They will perform on 16 September for one night.

Biggins tells me that he is "very much" looking forward to meeting his protégés, who were selected from 30 stars of the blue movie industry after successfully auditioning with the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet - somewhat more delicate prose than their customary lines, one imagines.

"We have got voice and movement coaches waiting for them," he adds. "Although I suspect they are already fairly agile."

Dundee's finest speaks out

No carefree after-show boozing for Brian Cox to celebrate the arrival of Tom Stoppard's Rock'n'Roll in the West End.

"We live in the age of the internet, but people are so ignorant," Cox tells me at the Albannach bar in Trafalgar Square. "Look at Iraq, or these people dying in Lebanon and Israel. Our indifference kills."

The comments are sure to attract the approval of "Gorgeous" George Galloway MP, who, in a recent interview with this newspaper, gallantly conceded that he may not be Dundee's greatest export - instead bestowing the title upon Cox.

"He's right, of course," laughs Cox, dryly. "I've never met the guy, or tried to, but he's certainly an ... erm ... interesting character. I suppose it is an honour."

Archer's blog

Lord Archer's brave foray into the world of online publishing has not received the reception one might expect of a man of his creative talent with words.

The novelist and former felon's six-week-old blog is notable less for its author's musings on his dentist or cricket umpiring, and more for its readers' mildly abusive feedback. "Wow ... fascinating stuff," comments one. Five postings have already been deleted by "the administrator".

But mark: 31 July, a noteworthy entry! Archer reveals his decision to invest in Andrew Lloyd Webber's musical The Sound of Music, scheduled for a November opening night.

"The production will cost £3.75m, and I intend to take a stake and become an angel."

In the clammy clutches of royalty

Another week, another touch-and-tell tale concerning Harry Wales. After the Cartier International Polo at Windsor on Sunday, HRH danced in the Chinawhite VIP marquee. A friend of Pandora's from Liverpool, who joined me in gatecrashing the A-list party by scaling the toilet roof, approached the Prince to quietly express her adoration.

Could she take a picture of him, she wondered? "I'm so sorry," he replied. "I've been told I can't do this sort of thing." Two Special Branch minders in linen suits stood by the wall, tapping their feet to the house music. Harry then gave my Scouse companion's hand a consolatory squeeze. "It was damp and freezing," she squealed, "like he'd put it in the freezer. I just wanted to shake him off." Poor Chelsy!

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