William Hague was under pressure to sack Britain's ambassador to the Lebanon last night after she heaped praise on the spiritual leader of the terrorist group Hezbollah.
In an extraordinary 'personal statement' on the Foreign Office website, Frances Guy paid tribute to Sheikh Sayyed Muhammad Hussein Fadlallah, who inspired a string of terrorist attacks against Israel and the West.
Fadlullah, who died last weekend at the age of 74, became infamous in 1983 amid claims he had personally authorised the truck bombing of two barracks in Beirut, which killed 241 U.S. Marines and 58 French paratroopers.
Controversy: British Ambassador to Lebanon Frances Guy, pictured with Ayatollah Fadlallah, has sparked anger after praising the Hezbollah cleric in her blog
He was also behind the kidnapping of dozens of hostages, including Terry Waite, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan. He recently issued a fatwa legitimising suicide bombing.
But writing on the Foreign Office website this week Miss Guy, Britain's ambassador to the Lebanon since 2006, hailed Fadlallah as a 'true man of religion' and said he was the man she admired the most.
MOHAMMAD HUSSEIN FADLALLAH
- Born in Najaf, Iraq, in 1935 after his parents moved there from Lebanon to study theology. He returned to Najaf to study Islamic sciences for 22 years before moving to Lebanon
- The Muslim cleric was staunchly anti-U.S., but condemned the 9/11 terror attacks and had a progressive view towards the role of women in Islamic society
- Fadlallah was the target of several failed assassination attempts, including one in 1985 when a car bomb exploded in Beirut
- He died on Sunday at the age of 74 after a period of bad health. Thousands attended his funeral on Tuesday and Lebanese authorities declared it an official day of mourning.
Under the headline 'The passing of a decent man', she wrote: 'If I was sad to hear the news (of his death), I know other people's lives will be truly blighted.
'The world needs more men like him, willing to reach out across faiths, acknowledging the reality of the modern world and daring to confront old constraints. May he rest in peace.'
Earlier this week the American news network CNN sacked its Middle East editor Octavia Nasr for voicing similar sentiments about Fadlallah.
Miss Guy's comments have now been removed from the Foreign Office website.
Foreign Office sources said Mr Hague was 'deeply unimpressed' by her actions.
Last night the Foreign Secretary was under mounting pressure to remove Miss Guy from her post following an outcry in Israel over her views.
In a statement Ron Prosor, Israel's ambassador to London, said: 'In 1983, the Holocaust-denying Sheikh Fadlallah murdered almost 300 American and French servicemen in Beirut.
Pressure: William Hague, pictured at a press conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, has been urged to sack Mrs May
'It is surprising that the British Ambassador believes that, "the world needs more people like him".'
HISTORY OF HEZBOLLAH
- First emerged as a Shi'a military organisation in 1982 following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. Its forces were trained by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard
- It became one of the first Islamic resistance groups to employ suicide bombing, against members of the Israeli Defence Force during the war between 1982 and 2000
- At the end of the civil war in 1990, Hezbollah became a political group, winning 12 seats in the 1992 elections and launching the al-Manar TV station
- Hezbollah operates several hospitals, news services, and educational facilities within Lebanon
- Many countries designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organisation, and claim it is funded by the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Colonel Richard Kemp, a former adviser on terrorism to Tony Blair, said Miss Guy's position was probably untenable.
'The Foreign Secretary should consider whether she is a suitable person to remain in such an important and sensitive post,' he said.
'As a minimum she should be required to issue a full apology. Hezbollah have other political and social functions but they are above all a terrorist organization.
'Hezbollah carry out terrorist acts on behalf of Iran. They are responsible for helping to train and equip extremists in Iraq who attacked and killed British soldiers.
'They are potentially even more dangerous than Al Qaeda.'
A Foreign Office spokesman said: 'The ambassador expressed a personal view on Sheik Fadlallah. This did not fully reflect Government policy and the blog has been taken down.
'While we welcomed his progressive views on women's rights and inter-faith dialogue, we also had profound disagreements - especially over his statements advocating attacks on Israel.'
Revered: Supporters of Fadlallah jump on his coffin during the funeral procession. The cleric was viewed as one of Shia Islam's highest authorities