World

UK Ambassador to US quits after spat over leaked memos

Kim Darroch says the leak of official documents has made it impossible to carry out his role

LONDON : Britain's Ambassador to Washington quit yesterday after days of stinging criticism from US President Donald Trump, leading to accusations that Mr Boris Johnson, the favourite to be the next British prime minister, had "thrown him under the bus".

Memos from Mr Kim Darroch, in which he described the Trump administration as inept, were leaked to a British Sunday newspaper.

This infuriated the US President, who launched a Twitter attack on both the envoy and outgoing British Prime Minister Theresa May, who had given Mr Darroch her full support.

As the spat between the two close allies intensified, Mr Trump said he would no longer deal with the "very stupid" Mr Darroch and called Mrs May "foolish".

Mr Darroch said his position had become untenable, but supporters blamed Mr Johnson, the former London mayor who could take over from Mrs May later this month, for refusing to back him.

"Since the leak of official documents from this embassy, there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,"said Mr Darroch, who was due to step down at the end of the year.

"I want to put an end to that speculation. The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like."

In his confidential memos dating from 2017 to the present, Mr Darroch, 65, had said reports of in-fighting in the White House were "mostly true", and last month described confusion within the administration over Mr Trump's decision to call off a military strike on Iran.

"We don't really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction-riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept," Mr Darroch wrote in one cable.

It led to a scathing tirade from Mr Trump.

"The wacky Ambassador that the UK foisted upon the United States is not someone we are thrilled with, a very stupid guy," he tweeted, describing Mr Darroch as a "pompous fool".

While Mrs May said the government did not share Mr Darroch's views, she said British ambassadors should have the freedom to give frank assessments.

"I have told him it is a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position," she told Parliament.

"The whole Cabinet rightly gave its full support to Sir Kim."

Foreign Minister Jeremy Hunt, the other contender for Mrs May's job, had said in a televised debate on Tuesday evening that Mr Darroch should keep his job. But Mr Johnson, who has promised Britain will leave the European Union with or without a deal by Halloween, pointedly declined to do so.

During a campaign visit yesterday, Mr Johnson, who was himself foreign minister until a year ago, called Mr Darroch "a superb diplomat", adding that whoever leaked the documents had "done a grave disservice to our civil servants".

But there was anger among many British politicians that Mr Darroch had been forced out, said Junior Foreign Minister Alan Duncan, who blamed Mr Johnson.

"He has basically thrown this fantastic diplomat under the bus to serve his personal interests," he told BBC TV. - REUTERS

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