Carey refuses to discuss 'little nation' controversy

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THE ARCHBISHOP of Canterbury carefully declined to be drawn into further controversy over his remarks in an interview that Britain was an 'ordinary little nation' and that the education system was 'mediocre'.

At a press conference at Lambeth Palace to launch a charitable project for South Africa, Dr Carey repeatedly declined to answer questions about his interview, leaked from a proof version of a book to be published in June.

Apparently irritated by the questioning, Dr Carey said the meeting was important for the future of South Africa. 'I want the headlines to reflect our concern about South Africa and not about a controversy between the Archbishop of Canterbury and other members of the British public.'

His remarks led Conservative MPs to round on Dr Carey for denigrating Britain.

The publisher, Hamish Hamilton, said the material misrepresented the archbishop and many of the the controversial sentences were not in the final version of Revelations: The Clergy Questioned, by Mary Loudon.

Ms Loudon has said it had been agreed in advance that Dr Carey could change anything he chose. Lambeth Palace said on Wednesday that the archbishop held the country in high regard and the remarks had been taken out of context.

(Photograph omitted)