A denial by the British Government that Prime Minister Blair's personal envoy, Lord Levy, was to have talks in Argentina and Chile on a now postponed visit to South America has been challenged by the British newspaper, The Mail on Sunday, which carried the original report a week previously.
The Prime Minister's Press Office and the Foreign and Commonwealth News Department both said the report was untrue and insisted Lord Levy's itinerary took in only four countries -- Mexico, Venezuela, Uruguay and Ecuador, and was postponed because of publicity surrounding Lord Levy and his income tax affairs in the British Media.
But the Mail on Sunday has carried a follow-up article entitled : "Lord Levy and Argentina: the Facts". This says that Lord Levy has attacked the newspaper in an attempt to fend off growing criticism of his controversial role as the Prime Minister's special envoy. The Labour Peer denied the newspaper's report which said that Tony Blair had scrapped a secret diplomatic mission to Argentina and Chile as well as the other four countries.
The newspaper insists it was told about the trip by a senior Labour Government Minister "concerned that the peer's activities were spreading from the Middle East, where he has special knowledge, to a region where he appears to have little expertise....Despite the widespread debate over his conduct, the Government kept the planned South America trip secret".
The Mail on Sunday says the visit was confirmed "by Argentine diplomatic sources, and a Foreign Office insider provided the full itinerary, covering both Chile and Argentina, including the Peer's 0500 arrival in Buenos Aires on July 16".The Foreign Office insists Lord Levy had never been scheduled to go to Argentina for talks on the Falkland Islands nor to Chile "to repair relations after the General Pinochet fiasco" (of his detention and subsequent release in the United Kingdom), as the newspaper had reported.
The newspaper declares: "This flatly contradicts the information we received from an official who had the precise details of his arrival and departure, which included Mexico, Ecuador, Venezuela and Uruguay.... The Mail on Sunday still stands by our story.
"But for our enquiries, Levy's South American mission would have remained a secret, and he could well now have been in Mexico, as was clear from the confidential itinerary marked ?restricted' that was passed to us".
The MercopressCorrespondent says there is no indication that the Labour Government has changed its attitude