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The BBC's Jonathan Beale
"The Foreign Office was well aware of the threat to diplomats"
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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 03:51 GMT 04:51 UK
Security 'failed' British diplomat
Widow Heather Saunders attends her husband's funeral with her two daughters
Increased security came too late for Brigadier Saunders' family
MPs have criticised the Foreign Office in the wake of the murder of a British diplomat in Athens for failing to improve security in Greece despite heightened fears after the Kosovo crisis.

In a report the cross-party Foreign Affairs Committee said it was "deeply disquieting" that the danger to staff in Athens had been classified as "broadly compatible" with other European Nato states.

Despite increased tensions in Greece - where there was strong opposition to Nato's bombing campaign in the Kosovo war - security had not been stepped up, the report revealed.

Athens is well-known as a high-risk post

Foreign Affairs Committee
The criticism of the Foreign Office followed the assassination of British military attache Brigadier Stephen Saunders in Athens in June.

"Athens is well-known as a high-risk post, and it is one where staff have become even more vulnerable after the Nato action in Kosovo," the committee said.

The Foreign Office acknowledged in a memorandum to the committee it had known the November 17 terror group, who might previously have attacked US targets, were liable to seek "softer" targets because of increased American security levels.

'Money must be found'

The US was planning to spend $11.4bn (7.6 bn) over the next 10 years upgrading its security in Greece.

In contrast, the Foreign Office had been allocated just 11.8m by the Treasury for the next three years.

Brigadier Stephen Saunders
Brigadier Saunders was shot four times
"Where there is a new threat, new money must be found, not simply reallocated. The physical security of staff posted overseas is a matter of the highest concern," the report said.

The committee recommended the Foreign Office urgently reviewed the level of protection afforded to staff overseas and said no security precaution should be foregone for reasons of cost.

It called for the Foreign Office's annual budget of 1.1 bn to be "increased materially" when the comprehensive spending review was published later this month.

Office under fire

The committee also had harsh words for the way the Foreign Office was run.

It said it was "something of a scandal" that the Foreign Office had been so slow to exploit new technology with only a few staff having access to the internet.

The way in which some information was presented in the Foreign Office's annual report was said to be "hardly satisfactory" and not suitably objective.

The MPs complained that the report failed to carry detailed account of the progress made in implementing changes promised by Foreign Robin Cook after the inquiry into the arms-to-Sierra Leone affair.

It added that the Foreign Office had a "lamentable" record in responding to MPs' questions on time, and it criticised the 250,000 spent on "rebranding" its export support arm, British Trade International, as Trade Partners UK.

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16 Jun 00 | Europe
Memorial service for diplomat
20 Jun 00 | Northern Ireland
Murdered brigadier buried with honours
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