Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Britain to close several embassies abroad

Source: Press TV

The British government is planning to shut down several diplomatic missions abroad as part of measures to reduce spending, the Foreign Secretary says.

William Hague will brief members of parliament on how his ministry hopes to cut around £100 million from its costs by 2013, British media reported.

The Foreign Secretary will also ensure that the move would cause “no strategic shrinkage of Britain's influence.”

Diplomatic missions across Europe are set to bear the brunt of closures and sell-offs of consulates and other satellite offices, a Foreign Office source said.

Many of those missions are housed in luxury properties in prime city locations, which are expected to raise up to £200 million when they are sold off - on top of £34 million saved in estate and security costs, the source added.

Hague, who will set out details of the changes to MPs in a Commons statement, said the package represented "the biggest strategic diplomatic advance by Britain in decades."

"As Foreign Secretary I announced on day one that my objective is to ensure that there is no strategic shrinkage of Britain's influence under this government," he said.

"Our diplomatic network is the essential infrastructure for our foreign policy and our influence overseas. Taken together, this represents the biggest strategic diplomatic advance by Britain in decades. So by 2015 we must aim to be a Foreign Office that is lean and efficient but configured to match the realities of the 21st century," added Hague.

Meanwhile, Britain will also be establishing embassies in up to five more countries, including El Salvador, Kyrgyzstan and the newly formed republic of South Sudan by 2015. The UK diplomatic presence in China and India, on the other hand, will be deepened.

The UK government has also plans to introduce representatives to Madagascar and Somalia, according to the Foreign Office source.

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