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Top British Conservative admits "mistake" in oligarch row

Text by AFP

Latest update : 2008-10-28

Shadow chancellor George Osborne has admitted that he made a "mistake" in holding discussions which allegedly attempted to solicit an illegal donation from a Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, with whom Peter Mandelson (photo) also has close ties.

One of the senior lawmakers in Britain's main opposition Conservative Party admitted Monday he made a "mistake" over his involvement in discussions about a donation from Russia's richest man.

George Osborne, the Conservatives' finance spokesman and the closest political ally of party leader David Cameron, said the discussions, which have erupted into a headline-hogging political row, "didn't look very good".

Osborne, 37, had been accused by financier Nat Rothschild of helping to solicit a potential 50,000 pound (63,000 euro, 82,000 dollar) donation from aluminium oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

Rothschild, a member of the wealthy banking dynasty, had hosted Osborne and Deripaska, plus Britain's now Business Secretary and ex EU trade commissioner Lord Peter Mandelson, at his villa on the Greek island of Corfu in August.

Osborne denies soliciting a donation but admits having met Deripaska five times, including twice on the oligarch's yacht the Queen K in Corfu in August.

In his first public comments for nearly a week, Osborne told BBC radio: "I neither asked for money nor received any and I didn't break any rules but I think I did make a mistake."

He added: "I think in politics it is not just what you say or what you do, it's how things look... if I am absolutely honest, this doesn't look very good and I regret that."

Only individuals who appear on Britain's electoral roll or legitimate British firms can donate to political parties. Conservative Party officials later decided it would not be appropriate to accept money from Deripaska.

On Sunday, the European Commission cleared Mandelson of any irregularity in his dealings with Deripaska, saying there was "no political interference" by him over a cut in EU duty on Russian aluminium exports and the raising of anti-dumping measures.

Date created : 2008-10-28

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