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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 14:36 GMT 15:36 UK
Tories appoint first Asian vice-chairman
Iain Duncan Smith meets Muslim leaders on Monday
Duncan Smith is appointing Asians in his party
The Conservatives have appointed their first Asian vice-chairman.

Solicitor Shailesh Vara started his new job on Tuesday after being given the role by Mr Duncan Smith in the latest appointments to his senior team, alongside fellow new vice-chairman Kay Coleman.

We are committed to increasing the role of the Muslim community in our public life and within the Conservative Party

Iain Duncan Smith
Tory leader
The party has also formally announced its first Asian appointment to the Press Complaints Commission when it named Mohammed Riaz on Tuesday.

The news came after Mr Duncan Smith met with British Muslim leaders on Monday, when he stressed the need to strengthen his party's links with the Muslim community in the UK.

Former candidates

Both of the newly appointed men unsuccessfully contested seats in this year's general election.

Mr Vara, a Ugandan-born Hindu, was beaten in the marginal seat of Northampton South and Mr Riaz, who was an adviser to former Tory leader William Hague, was defeated in Bradford West.

Shailesh Vara
Vara becomes the first Asian Tory vice-chairman
Ms Coleman's new role was also announced on Tuesday in what is thought to be the last appointment to Mr Duncan Smith's shadow team.

She recently retired as chief executive of a textiles company, has served on the Armed Forces Pay Review Body and was awarded the OBE in 1994.

With Conservative Central Office saying no more vice-chairmen will be appointed, it means reports that Steve Norris had been dropped from the post have proved correct.

Tory spokesman last month refused to say whether or not Mr Norris, who was an outspoken critic of Mr Duncan Smith during the leadership contest, would be re-appointed to the post he held under William Hague.

Mr Norris had accused Mr Duncan Smith of attracting people with extreme views on immigration.

Those claims, denied by the new Conservative leader and his aides, came after he sacked Edgar Griffin from his campaign team for his links with the far right British National Party (BNP).

On Monday, Mr Duncan Smith ordered an inquiry into reports that a former deputy leader of the Ku Klux Klan in the UK had joined the party in May.

He told BBC Radio Five Live his party would have "no truck with racists" and said that Bill Binding, 76, of Clapton, east London, would be able to remain in the party only if he now shunned the "reprehensible and disgusting" views of the klan.

Expanding Muslim role

In his meeting with British Muslim leaders, Mr Duncan Smith said he looked forward to improving his party's links with the community.

That included making more ethnic minority appointments as vice-chairman and advisers to his office.

"Above all, we will continue to explore how we might best promote stronger family life, build better community relations and secure a more peaceful and secure international environment."

Mr Duncan Smith was joined at the meeting with representatives from the Islami Centre, the Muslim Doctors' and Dentists' Association, the Muslim Women's Helpline and the Muslim Council of Britain by shadow home secretary Oliver Letwin.

Some Muslims, as well as some mosques, have been attacked in the UK in the wake of the terrorist atrocities in America.

The Tory leader said he would support the government and the police in ensuring good race relations and protecting mosques.

It was also an "international priority" to protect innocent Afghans caught up in the world crisis, he said.

"Islam is a peaceful faith and Muslims across Britain and across the world share the horror at the loss of life in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

"Muslims are full and active citizens of Great Britain. They contribute greatly to the cultural, social and economic life of our country.

"On behalf of the Conservative Party I offer Britain's Muslims our support at this difficult time. Muslims have faced intimidation, hatred and even attack from neighbours."

See also:

01 Oct 01 | UK Politics
Duncan Smith orders race inquiry
24 Aug 01 | Wales
Tory campaign hit by BNP row
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