BBC issues apology to Queen Elizabeth


The BBC apologised to Queen Elizabeth today after a senior journalist reported her private views about one of the country's best known terrorism suspects.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner broadcast details of a private conversation with the queen during which she supposedly told him she had complained to the last government about radical Muslim cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri.

The queen was said to be upset that Britain had not arrested him after he preached fiery anti-Western sermons outside a mosque in London after the September 11th, 2001, attacks in the United States.

It was an embarrassing disclosure for a monarch who avoids public political statement who has no political or executive role and is expected to stay neutral in public. The queen has never given a media interview and typically avoids controversial topics in her speeches.

The Egyptian-born cleric lost an appeal in the European courts on yesterday and faces extradition from Britain to the United States. Washington accuses him of supporting al-Qaeda, aiding a kidnapping in Yemen and plotting to open a US training camp for militants.

"The conversation should have remained private and the BBC and Frank deeply regret this breach of confidence. It was wholly inappropriate," the BBC said. The public broadcaster said the meeting had taken place some years ago.

Buckingham Palace had no comment.

A former banker, Mr Gardner has worked for the BBC since 1997. He was partly paralysed in 2004 after being shot on assignment in Saudi Arabia.

Delays in arresting Abu Hamza angered many in Britain. Newspapers campaigned for his extradition, with the Sun using the headline "Sling Your Hook", a reference to the metal hook he wore in place of a hand he lost in disputed circumstances.