UK Envoy's Praise For Lebanon Cleric Draws Israel Anger

Israel has criticised Britain's ambassador to Lebanon for eulogising a recently deceased Lebanese cleric said to have inspired Hezbollah. Frances Guy wrote on her personal blog that Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah was a "decent man" who rated among the people she most admired. An Israeli spokesman said Ayatollah Fadlallah was "unworthy of praise". The UK foreign office says it has taken down the blog after "mature consideration". It said the comments reflected Ms Guy's personal opinion, not official UK policy. Ayatollah Fadlallah, Lebanon's top Shia Muslim cleric, died on Sunday at the age of 74. Thousands of people attended his funeral in Beirut and tributes poured in from all over the Arab and Islamic worlds. Two days ago, CNN sacked a veteran Middle East editor who wrote on Twitter that she "respected" the late cleric, saying that her credibility had been compromised. Ayatollah Fadlallah was customarily described as the spiritual leader of the militant movement Hezbollah when it was formed in 1982 - a claim both he and the group denied. Ms Guy, who has been ambassador since 2006, wrote on her blog that Ayatollah Fadlallah was the politician in Lebanon she most enjoyed meeting. "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," she wrote. Israel's foreign ministry denounced the comments. "We believe that the spiritual leader of [Hezbollah] is unworthy of any praise or eulogising," a spokesman told the Israeli newspaper, Yediot Ahronot. "If Hezbollah was firing missiles at London and Glasgow, would this leader still be called 'decent'?" he added. Ayatollah Fadlallah was a controversial figure.