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UK minister inadvertently displays sensitive Afghan documents

A senior British minister has risked an embarrassing diplomatic row after he accidentally revealed a government dossier "welcoming" the departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

world Updated: Aug 31, 2011 16:20 IST

A senior British minister has risked an embarrassing diplomatic row after he accidentally revealed a government dossier "welcoming" the departure of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

International development secretary Andrew Mitchell was photographed leaving the Prime Minister's residence at 10 Downing Street on Tuesday with what appeared to be briefing notes on Afghanistan and its president, Karzai, who will finish his second term in 2014.

The dossier – marked "Protect" – makes clear government attitudes towards the impending departure of Karzai, and towards criticism of the Afghan banking system by the International Monetary Fund.

Confirming the UK government is pleased Karzai is intending to stand down after two terms in office in 2014, the document reads: "This is very important. It improves Afghanistan's political prospects very significantly. We should welcome Karzai's announcement in public and in private."

The document also details British government concerns that foreign aid to Afghanistan is sent to a finance ministry and banking sector of questionable standing. Funds have been suspended, but the document says the IMF will send a new inspection team in the autumn.

Meanwhile, foreign secretary William Hague has dismissed the severity of the incident, telling the BBC that Mitchell was carrying a "low-level briefing document".

Mitchell is not the only British official to commit the gaffe.

Two years ago, Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Bob Quick was forced to resign after being photographed leaving a breakfast meeting at 10 Downing Street with a document that revealed details of a counter-terrorism raid.

Later that month, then communities secretary Hazel Blears was photographed carrying a proposal by then prime minister Gordon Brown to end second homes allowances.