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Thursday, 14 February, 2002, 14:33 GMT
Timeline: Labour donor row
Lakshmi Mittal and Tony Blair
BBC News Online plots what happened - and when - in the row over Tony Blair's support for Labour Party donor Lakshmi Mittal.


End of May 2001 - Mr Mittal gives 125,000 to Labour, although this is not registered with the Electoral Commission until after the June election

23 July 2001 - Tony Blair sends a letter to Romanian Prime Minister Adrian Nastase supporting the takeover of nationalised steel company Sidex by Mr Mittal's firm, LNM.

French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin flies to Bucharest, expected to lobby for a French bid for Sidex.

25 July 2001 - Mr Nastase announces the draft agreement for the 300m sale of Sidex to LNM.

The sale is completed in November, when the Romanian president addresses the Confederation of British Industry and urges more UK firms to move into Romania.

10 February 2002 - Sunday Telegraph publishes details of Mr Blair's letter and Conservatives and Plaid Cymru attack Mr Blair over the case, saying LNM only has few UK staff.

The prime minister, returning from his visit to West Africa, dismisses the row as "Enron chapter 55".

11 February - Downing Street says the prime minister is not embarrassed about supporting British business overseas.

Mr Blair signed and did not change the letter, which was recommended by the UK Ambassador in Bucharest because it was Romania's "privatisation of the decade".

The Romanian ambassador in London says the steel deal was finalised "long before" Mr Blair's letter arrived.

The Conservatives say the affair is one of a string of cases where people doing favours for Labour get favours in return from the government.

12 February - It emerges Mr Mittal's donation came during the general election campaign, not afterwards as previously thought. Labour says parties are allowed 30 days to check they can accept cash.

Plaid Cymru accuses Mr Blair of "actively undermining" the steel industry in Wales by his support for LNM.

The Tories ask how many times British embassies had requested the kind of support Mr Blair gave to LNM, and question the Britishness of a firm which has fewer than 0.1% of its employees in the UK.

13 February - Mr Blair dubs the affair "Garbagegate" as he clashes with Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith in the Commons.

The role of Jonathan Powell comes into the spotlight with reports that early drafts of the letter referred to Mr Mittal as a "friend" of Mr Blair - words removed by someone in Downing Street before the prime minister signed the letter.

British Embassy officials in Bucharest effectively contradict Downing Street and tell the BBC that the letter had been a key factor in LNM winning the contract.

14 February - Shadow Cabinet Minister Tim Collins says Mr Powell should be sacked, questioning how he would not be able to know that Mittal was a Labour donor from as far back as 1997.

Downing Street "refutes absolutely" claims it has lied over the controversy and the prime minister tells his cabinet the affair is "nonsense".

Number 10 says Mr Powell does an excellent job but other staff also deal with such letters.

17 February - The Department of International Development confirms its officials backed the loan to Mr Mittal.

Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith calls for an inquiry into what "looks like a trail of cover-up and deception".

Meanwhile, Europe minister Peter Hain says the affair is a "storm in a teacup".

18 February

The European bank which lent Mr Mittal 70m to part fund LNM's purchase of Sidex says it was put under no pressure by the British government.

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development also confirms that a French company was in the running for Sidex at one stage.

Downing Street refuses to answer questions on reports that Mr Mittel backed a campaign in the US to introduce tariffs on UK and other foreign steel.

Plaid Cymru claims such a move would virtually "kill off" Britain's struggling steel industry.

See also:

13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair's bad sleaze day
12 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Tory pressure over Mittal row
11 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair defends business support
11 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Blair dismisses influence claims
07 Nov 01 | Business
Romania clinches steel sale
01 Feb 02 | Business
Enron scandal at a glance
13 Feb 02 | UK Politics
Q&A: 'Garbagegate'
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