Runcie 'considered sacking Waite before hostage trip'

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LORD RUNCIE blames Terry Waite's 'love of publicity and lack of sophistication' for his envoy's 1,763-day imprisonment in Beirut, according to a book to be published on Thursday.

The former Archbishop of Canterbury is also quoted in Hostages by Con Coughlin as saying that he considered sacking Mr Waite just before he made his final trip to Lebanon. Lord Runcie was upset that his special envoy had 'misled' him about his influence with the kidnappers and felt he had been kept in the dark about Mr Waite's links with Oliver North, the former US Marines colonel at the centre of the Irangate scandal.

The problem came to a head in November 1986 when Mr Waite was summoned to the Archbishop's office. Mr Waite gave a categorical assurance that he had nothing to do with the arms deal that Col North arranged to secure the release of US hostages, and insisted that the only contact he had had with the Americans was to arrange transport facilities.

But as more details of his Middle East mission emerged, Lord Runcie decided Mr Waite would have to go. 'Both Terry and me recognised that we would have to part company,' Lord Runcie said. 'The basic fact of the matter was that he had been working independently of me, which was something he should never have been allowed to do.'

Lord Runcie said he agreed to allow Mr Waite to make one final trip to Lebanon in 1987 before he was removed from his post. But he was not optimistic of success. 'His love of publicity and his lack of sophistication about what was being worked on him by the Americans were the cause of all his difficulties,' Lord Runcie said.

Mr Waite and Lord Runcie were unavailable for comment.