Syrian envoy`s royal wedding invite withdrawn

Last Updated: Apr 29, 2011, 12:01 PM IST

London: Heeding to outcry from MPs and rights groups, Britain today withdrew the invitation extended to Syrian Ambassador Sami Khiyami for tomorrow`s royal wedding in view of the reported attacks on civilians by security forces in Syria this week.

The invitation to Dr Khiyami was protested by several MPs and rights activists, and today the Foreign Office said the ambassador`s presence at the event would be `unacceptable...he should not attend`.

"Representatives of countries with which the UK has normal diplomatic relations have been invited to the wedding.

An invitation does not mean endorsement or approval of the behaviour of any government, simply that we have normal diplomatic relations with that country," a Foreign Office spokesperson said.

"In the light of this week`s attacks against civilians by the Syrian security forces, which we have condemned, the Foreign Secretary has decided that the presence of the Syrian Ambassador at the Royal Wedding would be unacceptable and that he should not attend."

Buckingham Palace shares the view of the Foreign Office that it is not considered appropriate for the Syrian Ambassador to attend the wedding.

Labour MPs said it "bordered on the grotesque" for Dr Khiyami to attend the royal wedding when former Prime Ministers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown have been excluded.

Jack Straw, the former foreign secretary, questioned the invitation for the Syrian ambassador and said he was "surprised" Blair and Brown had not been invited.

"I certainly think the former prime ministers shouldn have been (invited)," he told BBC Radio 4`s Today programme.

Denis MacShane, the former Minister for Europe, said: "Rolling out the red carpet for petty tyrants who back home chop off people`s arms and hands, or, in the case of Syria, send tanks to crush peaceful protests, is bordering on the grotesque."

Michael Dugher, a shadow Defence Minister, said: "It seems odd that two former Prime Ministers are excluded but we have some quite dubious people being invited. The palace keeps saying this is a private wedding but it is a huge national celebration."

There should be extraordinary sensitivity in relation to the invitations.

Earlier this week, the Crown Prince of Bahrain, Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa, decided not to attend after protests threatened to disrupt his visit.

PTI