MacShane isolated over attack on Prodi

The Europe minister Denis MacShane received no support from Downing Street yesterday for criticising Romano Prodi, the president of the European Commission, as being not committed to the EU.

No 10 distanced itself from Mr MacShane's comments after he said that Mr Prodi was acting as an Italian "leader in exile". The outspoken Foreign Office minister made his comments in Rome where he was meeting his European counterparts in the run up to next week's crucial talks on the proposed European constitution.

He told The Guardian: "It is not acceptable that the Commission should have a president who is not dedicated 100 per cent to the questions of Europe, but who is instead seen as a leader of the opposition in exile." Mr MacShane added: "Mr Prodi's return to Italy would be totally understandable. But he has to serve Europe properly."

A Downing Street spokeswoman insisted yesterday that: "We have no criticisms to make of Mr Prodi." Asked if the Prime Minister had any criticism of Mr MacShane, she repeated: "We have no criticisms of Mr Prodi." She said: "I understand he spoke to a journalist when he was in Italy. I have explained what the Government's position is."

Asked if Tony Blair still had full confidence in Mr MacShane, the Downing Street spokeswoman replied: "I'm sure he does."

Mr MacShane was forced to apologise this week after claiming that Muslims had to choose between the "British way" and the terrorist way.