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Controversy dogs new British ambassador

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — The new British ambassador to Ireland is Ivor Roberts, who was previously Ambassador to Yugoslavia, where he had been involved in controversy for his dealings with the Milosevic regime.

Roberts, who’s 51, succeeds Dame Veronica Sutherland, 59, who is retiring after 30 years in the diplomatic service to become secretary-general to the Commonwealth with responsibility for economic and social affairs.

One of only four British women ambassadors, she has been in Ireland since 1995 and played a central role in the Northern Ireland peace process.

Roberts, who is married with two sons and a daughter, takes up his Dublin job in February.

He was embroiled in controversy in Belgrade during the period of the demonstrations in 1996 against the Serbian President. He was accused in the American press of being Slobodan Milosevic’s "handmaiden."

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Foreign Secretary Malcolm Rifkind sprang to his defense when Morton Abramowitz, head of the Carnegie Endowment, the foreign affairs research institute, said that Britain was not doing enough to rein in the autocratic Serbian leader.

"The British have been even worse [than America] in playing up to Mr. Milosevic. In Belgrade their ambassador is widely regarded as his handmaiden," Abramowitz wrote in the Washington Post.

Roberts served in embassies in Madrid, Canberra, Luxembourg and Paris before he got his first ambassadorial job in Belgrade.

He has also had postings in the West African, Arabia, East European, West European and news departments of the Foreign Office in London.

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