British PM Cameron on visit, comments on hacking scandal, Libya, Africa aid
British Prime Minister David Cameron, under huge political pressure over the intensifying phone hacking scandal at Rupert Murdoch's embattled U.K. newspaper empire, said on Monday that Parliament should delay its summer break so he can brief lawmakers.
Cameron was speaking in South Africa, on the first day of a two-day visit to the continent.
He had planned a longer trip, but cut it short as his government faces increasing questions about its relationship with the Murdoch media empire amid a scandal that has tainted some of Britain's top political, media and police figures.
Prime Minister Cameron started the press conference stating the engagement between Britain and Africa as a whole is more important than ever and pledged an extra 52 million pounds of aid package for Somalia, Kenya and the refugees fleeing draught in the Ethiopian and Kenyan camps, urging 'those who are still considering their response to act without delay."
But the questions from journalists that followed the opening remarks, turned focus of the press conference to the widening hacking scandal in the UK.
London police chief Paul Stephenson resigned Sunday over his ties to a former News of the World executive editor who has been arrested over the scandal.
In his resignation speech Stephenson made pointed reference to Cameron's hiring of Andy Coulson, a former editor of the shuttered tabloid who was arrested earlier this month over hacking.
Asked by a journalist whether he accepted Sir Paul Stephenson's claim that he would have been compromised if Stephenson had told him about his links with Neil Wallis, a former News of the World executive editor who was arrested last week in the scandal, Cameron replied:
" I'd like to thank Sir Paul Stephenson for the great work he has done in policing over many, many years in the Metropolitan Police Force and elsewhere. And as I said to him on many occasions and including on Tuesday night: "The Metropolitan Police service inquiry must go wherever the evidence leads. They should investigate without fear or favour. I've said that repeatedly and it is absolutely vital they feel that."
Murdoch's former British CEO and Cameron's friend Rebekah Brooks, was arrested Sunday on suspicion of hacking.
Cameron said his government had "taken very decisive action" by setting up a judge-led inquiry into wrongdoing by the newspaper.
Both Stephenson's resignation and Brooks' arrest are ominous not only for Murdoch's News Corp., but for a British power structure that nurtured a cozy relationship with his papers for years.
The arrest on Sunday of the 43-year-old Brooks, often described as a surrogate daughter to the 80-year-old Murdoch, brought the British police investigations into the media baron's inner circle for the first time.
She was released on bail some 12 hours later, Scotland Yard announced early Monday.
Brooks, the ultimate social and political insider, dined at Christmas with Cameron.
His Conservative-led government is now facing increasing questions about its relationship with Murdoch's media empire.
Rupert and James Murdoch are to be grilled by British lawmakers Tuesday over the scandal.
Brooks also had agreed to be questioned before a parliamentary committee, but her arrest throws that appearance into doubt.
Cameron's office says he is back in Britain on Wednesday.
He will visit South Africa and Nigeria. He had also planned to visit Rwanda and Sudan but a decision was made last week to drop that part of the itinerary.
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