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UK minister: no favoritism toward Russian oligarch

UK minister: no favoritism toward Russian oligarch

Britain's business secretary has denied being influenced by a Russian oligarch while negotiating trade tariffs in his previous role as the European Union's trade commissioner.
Peter Mandelson has been criticized for meeting with Russian aluminum tycoon Oleg Deripaska on his luxury yacht at the same time he was working on EU policies affecting Deripaska's businesses.
Mandelson said in a letter published Saturday in The Times newspaper that he met Deripaska in 2004. Earlier he had said he met Deripaska in 2006.
But Mandelson denied showing Deripaska any favoritism, and said EU officials investigating his role found that all proper procedures were followed when aluminum tariffs were set.
A longtime ally of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, Mandelson was brought back into the British Cabinet three weeks ago to help deal with the economic crisis.
He said in the letter he would take no actions that might suggest he has any conflicts of interest, and would follow the rules on ethics for Cabinet ministers.
"As business secretary, I will continue to act with the public interest in mind," he said.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown expressed support for Mandelson while on a campaign trip Saturday to Scotland, where his Labour Party faces an election next month.
"This was already investigated by the European Commission when he was a commissioner, and the answer was nothing untoward happened," Brown said. "That's where the story lies."
But opposition politicians said Saturday that Mandelson must give a full accounting of all his meetings with Deripaska.
Liberal Democrat legislator Norman Baker said Mandelson's letter seemed like a "pre-emptive strike" designed to protect him if more information comes out about his meetings with Deripaska.


Updated : 2021-03-09 16:47 GMT+08:00