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    Britain's Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs Boris Johnson addresses the Conservative Party conference in Manchester, October 3, 2017.

    You Don't Understand Libya: Boris Rebuffs Critics Over 'Dead Bodies' Remark

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    Gaffe-prone Boris Johnson has brushed off calls for him to be sacked as UK Foreign Secretary over remarks about Libya's tourism potential and the need to clear away the "dead bodies" to fulfill it.

    Johnson's latest high-profile blunder came during a speech made by the UK's chief diplomat to a Conservative Party conference fringe meeting when he remarked Sirte could become the new Dubai, adding "all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away." The Foreign Sec however dismissed the barrage of condemnation that ensued, pointing out his critics had "no knowledge or understanding of Libya" and accused them of simply playing politics.

    Speaking at the fringe meeting, Mr. Johnson said: "I look at Libya, it's an incredible country. Bone-white sands, beautiful sea, Caesar's Palace, obviously, you know, the real one. Incredible place. It's got a real potential and brilliant young people who want to do all sorts of tech. There's a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed as some of you may have seen. They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai. The only thing they have to do is clear the dead bodies away."

    Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government gather as they advance against Islamic State holdouts in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya December 1, 2016.
    © REUTERS / Ismail Zitouny
    Fighters of Libyan forces allied with the UN-backed government gather as they advance against Islamic State holdouts in Ghiza Bahriya district in Sirte, Libya December 1, 2016.

    Baroness Stroud, who was hosting the fringe event, quickly stepped in to say 'next question' as the foreign secretary continued to speak.

    Following the statement, critics angrily rounded on Johnson with the Liberal Democrats and Conservative MP Heidi Allen demanding that he should be sacked, while the Labor Party described his comments as "crass, callous and cruel."

    Labour's shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry said:"It is less than a year since Sirte was finally captured from Daesh by the Libyan Government of National Accord, a battle in which hundreds of government soldiers were killed and thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire, the second time in five years that the city had seen massive loss of life as a result of the Libyan civil war. For Boris Johnson to treat those deaths as a joke — a mere inconvenience before UK business people can turn the city into a beach resort — is unbelievably crass, callous and cruel."

    Boris Strikes Back

    In an attempt to defend himself, the foreign secretary said on Twitter that he was making a point about the need for optimism in Libya, having recently visited the country.

    It is not the first time Mr. Johnson has put his foot-in-his-mouth since becoming Britain's chief diplomat in a largely surprising appointment by UK prime minister Theresa May after the last general election. Yet despite a series of hard political knocks, they all appear to simply bounce off Mr. Johnson — for the time being anyway.

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    Tags:
    gaffe, blunder, speech, diplomacy, British Conservative Party, Boris Johnson, Europe, United Kingdom, Libya
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