Boris Johnson jokes Libyan city can be ‘next Dubai’ once it clears up ‘dead bodies’
The hideous comments were made – by a laughing Johnson – at a Conservative Party Conference fringe event this week, prompting fresh calls for him to be sacked.
The tactless foreign secretary has caused outrage, just months after he traveled to the North African nation and shook the hands of members the Coast Guard, a body accused of corruption.
Liberal Democrat and Labour politicians have called for Johnson’s sacking – while others in his own party are baying for his blood over his blatant campaign to undermine Prime Minister Theresa May on Brexit.
“I look at Libya, it’s an incredible country,” he told the meeting.
“Bone-white sands, beautiful sea, Caesar’s palace – obviously, you know, the real one.
“Incredible place. It’s got a real potential and brilliant young people who want to do all sorts of tech.
“There’s a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed, as some of you may have seen.
100% unacceptable from anyone, let alone foreign sec. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party. https://t.co/v2RHlbjlnB— Heidi Allen (@heidiallen75) October 3, 2017
“They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai.
“The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away,” he added.
Johnson reportedly laughed as he finished his speech.
Legatum Institute Chief Executive Baroness Stroud stopped him in his tracks and called for the “next question.”
Sirte is a former Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) stronghold in Libya, between Benghazi and Tripoli.
The area, ravaged by war, has seen chaos, death and destruction as the UN-backed Libyan Unity Government failed to take control of the entire country.
Militia groups still control swathes of land and black slave markets are rife across the country, despite IS being pushed from Sirte.
Conservative MP Heidi Allen said Johnson should be sacked. Labour meanwhile called the comments “crass, callous and cruel.”
“100 percent unacceptable from anyone, let alone foreign sec. Boris must be sacked for this. He does not represent my party,” Allen tweeted.
Johnson claimed his critics had “no knowledge or understanding of Libya” and accused them of playing politics.
Tory MP Sarah Wollaston called on Johnson to retract and “consider his position.”
However, Johnson refused to back down, accusing his critics of failing to see the potential in Libya.
“The reality there is that the clearing of corpses of Daesh [IS] fighters has been made much more difficult by IEDs [improvised explosive devices] and booby traps,” he said on Twitter.
“That’s why Britain is playing a key role in reconstruction and why I have visited Libya twice this year in support.”
Labour's shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, told the BBC that “It is less than a year since Sirte was finally captured from Daesh by the Libyan Government of National Accord, a battle in which hundreds of government soldiers were killed and thousands of civilians were caught in the crossfire, the second time in five years that the city had seen massive loss of life as a result of the Libyan civil war.
“For Boris Johnson to treat those deaths as a joke – a mere inconvenience before UK business people can turn the city into a beach resort – is unbelievably crass, callous and cruel.
“If these words came from the business people themselves, it would be considered offensive enough, but for them to come from the foreign secretary is simply a disgrace.
“There comes a time when the buffoonery needs to stop, because if Boris Johnson thinks the bodies of those brave government soldiers and innocent civilians killed in Sirte are a suitable subject for throwaway humor, he does not belong in the office of foreign secretary.”