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EDITIONS
Friday, 13 December, 2002, 17:31 GMT
Number 10 denies Foster tape link
In the spotlight: Mrs Blair on a visit to Poland on Friday
The government is insisting it was not involved in obtaining the transcripts of conversations between convicted fraudster Peter Foster and his family, published in the Sun newspaper.

I am going to carry on concentrating on the things that really matter

Tony Blair

The Sun has printed details of what it says are telephone calls between Mr Foster and his mother, which suggest he tried to sell the story of his involvement with Cherie Blair for thousands of pounds.

The newspaper gives no explanation as to how the transcripts were obtained.

But a Downing Street spokesman has emphatically denied suggestions the government was involved in the story.

The Sun's political editor, Trevor Kavanagh, has also denied any link.

He told BBC News: "These revelations came as a surprise to Downing Street, and even to us as we listened to them."

Meanwhile, the Press Complaints Commission says it has written to Mrs Blair to see if she wants it to investigate a possible breach of her privacy by the media.

'Not getting involved'

Speaking to reporters in Copenhagen, where he is attending a summit on EU enlargement, Mr Blair refused to comment on the latest allegations.

"I am going to carry on concentrating on the things that really matter," he said.

The media agency representing Mrs Blair's advisor, Carole Caplin, has said it had warned Downing Street about an alleged blackmail attempt relating to Mr Foster's involvement with Mrs Blair, three days before the story broke.

In a statement, MacLaurin Media said it had alerted Number 10 on 28 November to an apparent blackmail letter which had been sent to Mr Foster, Ms Caplin's partner, by some of his business associates.

The agency said it had advised both Mr Foster and Ms Caplin against selling their stories, adding that Mr Foster would be making a statement on the affair on Monday.

It said Mr Foster had been warned that unless he paid his associates 75,000 they each claimed he owed them, newspapers would be alerted to his alleged attempts to get to the Blairs via Carole Caplin.

The statement came after the Sun claimed Mr Foster had tried to strike a deal with a number of media organisations and was hoping to make about 100,000 from his story.

Desire

One of the alleged transcripts appears to show Mr Foster calling his mother, Louise Pelloti, saying: "I should try and get some money out of this shouldn't I? I'll do a story but I'll do it only for the money."

Peter Foster
Peter Foster sent a video message to Tony Blair three years ago
Comments by Mr Foster in the transcript also appear to back up newspaper claims that Mrs Blair had read legal documents pertaining to Mr Foster's deportation case.

Mr Foster reportedly told his mother Mrs Blair did read the papers, and that a statement from Ms Caplin that she had not, had been made simply out of a desire to protect her close friend.

In response to The Sun article, a Downing Street spokesman said: "We have said repeatedly this is a story about a convicted conman and that all the allegations should be seen in that context."

Statements from the prime minister's spokesman and Ms Caplin have said that papers on the Foster case were faxed to a Downing Street office for Ms Caplin but Mrs Blair refused to read them.

Mrs Blair flew for a short trip to Poland on Friday to visit a children's charity before returning to the UK the same day.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Mark Mardell
"Peter Foster plans to tell his story for free on Monday if no one pays him first"
The BBC's Michael Peschardt
"Peter Foster is nothing if not the prince of reinvention"

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13 Dec 02 | Politics
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