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London mayor criticises US envoy

Ken Livingstone accused Ambassador Robert Tuttle of being a "chiselling little crook", reports Vijay Dutt.

india Updated: Mar 28, 2006 18:52 IST
Vijay Dutt

His dislike for the US is known but from his own standards of blunt outbursts, the Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone's attack on the US ambassador takes the cake.

He accused the Ambassador Robert Tuttle of being a "chiselling little crook".

The Mayor's ire is over the refusal by the US Embassy to pay the congestion charge of £8 imposed by him for all cars entering the Central London, shortly before ambassador arrived in London to take up his post last July.

The Embassy has since then, not only refused to pay for its cars and that of its diplomats but encouraged several other embassies to follow suit. German Embassy is also not paying the charge.

Livingstone, who was spared a suspension last month after being accused of anti-Semitism, also likened Tuttle to a car salesman. 

Earlier, speaking at the unveiling of the new Wembley Park station on Monday, Livingstone queried the motivation for the decision to stop making the payments.

He said, "This new ambassador is a car salesman and an ally of President Bush. This is clearly a political decision. When British troops are putting their lives on the line for American foreign policy it would be quite nice if they paid the congestion charge," he said.

"We will find a way of getting them into court either here or in America. We are not going to have them evade their responsibilities."

The US embassy is arguing that the congestion charge is a tax and as such should not apply to diplomats, whom it says are exempt. But Livingstone counters that the charge is a payment for a service as it is aimed at reducing traffic, and should therefore be paid.

But US Embassy spokesman Rick Roberts told the media, " Livingstone is wrong to say this has anything to do with the arrival of our new ambassador Robert Tuttle. We don't impose tax on British envoys [in America] and we don't expect to be taxed here."

Later the Mayor reportedly told ITV News, "It would be quite nice if the American ambassador in Britain could pay the charge that everybody else is paying and not try and [evade] it like some chiselling little crook."

The US Embassy may restrain itself from accusing Livingston of "undiplomatically" language. He was recently in the news when he said multi-millionaires the Reuben brothers, should "go back to Iran and see if they can do better under the Ayatollahs".

He was then told that they were Jewish and born in India.