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Last Updated: Friday, 22 April, 2005, 11:49 GMT 12:49 UK
Envoy in Nottingham 'danger' row
Saudi Arabia
Islamic extremists have targeted Saudi Arabia in recent years
The British envoy to Saudi Arabia has sparked a row after suggesting that it is safer for a British businessman to visit a Saudi city than Nottingham.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles told a Saudi audience Nottingham is "far more dangerous" than some Saudi cities.

But Jon Collins, the leader of Nottingham City Council, said the city had been unfairly stereotyped.

In March the city's police chief said his force was "struggling to cope" with a series of murders.

Nottinghamshire Constabulary Chief Constable Steve Green suggested the force may have to "farm out" murder cases to other forces.

It is far more dangerous, statistically, to be in Nottingham, than to be in al-Khobar, Dammam or Riyadh
Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles
British ambassador

And Nottingham had the fifth highest level of gun crime per head of population in England and Wales last year.

The British ambassador, who was addressing a reception for the Queen's birthday in the eastern Saudi city of al-Khobar, made the comments while recounting an anecdote about a British expatriate worker visiting Nottingham.

Describing the worker's remarks, Sir Sherard said: "He was saying he felt completely ridiculous having to give British businessmen from Nottingham assurances about the security here when Nottingham is the murder capital of the UK at the moment.

"It is far more dangerous, statistically, to be in Nottingham, than to be in al-Khobar, Dammam or Riyadh."

But the anecdote was not received warmly in the East Midlands city.

Saudi safety

The comments prompted Mr Collins to tell the Times newspaper: "People in positions of responsibility should be responsible about what they say and not get caught up in media hyperbole which is not only damaging to Nottingham but also unfair and unnecessary."

Islamic extremists have mounted attacks on Saudi Arabia in recent years, causing a number of deaths.

Despite the country's safety concerns, Prince Turki al-Faisal, the Saudi Ambassador to London, seemed convinced by the notion put forward by Sir Sherard.

He said he had looked at recent figures on murders in the UK, leading him to conclude that "for London alone the figures for one year far exceed the number of people killed in Saudi Arabia over the past two years".

He added that the word "terrorism" gives killings a "magnified dimension".

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