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Politics & press news – Embassy 4 – January 2008

Shake-up at FCO

More British diplomats are to be sent to the Middle East and South Asia to combat extremism, in a radical reallocation of FCO resources, the Foreign Secretary has announced.

David Miliband said the number of staff in these areas would rise by 30% and promised to allocate a further £80m over three years on counter-radicalism measures.

It is thought that the extra political officers will be re-deployed to places like Pakistan and the Middle East where they will build contacts with local people and gather information about radicals on the ground.

In his first announcement of the New Year, the Foreign Secretary also discarded the FCO’s ten ‘strategic priorities’, instead deciding to focus on four “key policy goals”. These include combating terror and nuclear proliferation, conflict prevention, climate change and increasing the effectiveness of international institutions such as the United Nations and the European Union.

The new focus has led to speculation inside King Charles Street that this will lead to cuts elsewhere in the service.

The Foreign Office has played down these suggestions, but already it is facing strike action at the Embassy in Dublin if talks fail with the unions after staff cuts were announced there.

Embassy workers are said to be angry after three Irish employees, with a total of 20 years service between them, were warned they could be issued compulsory redundancy notices.

Union leaders are claiming that rather than prepare for a historic Royal visit this year, senior officials have been planning redundancies.

Bosses at workers' union Unite have sent a letter to Ambassador David Reddaway warning him that if the jobs are cut, staff will down tools.

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