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Ex-UK aid minister to take helm of UN climate talks

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London (AFP)

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Thursday named former aid minister Alok Sharma to lead the UN climate talks in Glasgow in November, an event already plagued by political rows.

He takes over from Claire O'Neill, who was sacked as COP president two weeks ago. Johnson said he wanted to bring the role into the heart of government.

Sharma was promoted from international development secretary to secretary of state for business, energy and industrial strategy as part of a cabinet reshuffle, and also made minister for COP 26.

Born in India and brought up in south-east England, the 52-year-old trained as an accountant and worked in banking before becoming an MP for Johnson's Conservatives in 2010.

Sharma held a variety of junior government positions before being given the international aid brief when Johnson took office in July last year.

O'Neill responded to her forced exit with a withering critique of Johnson's leadership, saying that planning for the COP 26 summit was "way off track" and suggesting he did not understand climate change.

The summit plans have also been hit by tensions between London and the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who is pressing for a new independence referendum.

Johnson's office on Wednesday said although it was "committed" to holding the summit in Glasgow, it was looking at a London venue as "contingency planning".

"The Scottish government needs to work with us to make sure it is a successful summit," the spokesman said.

Sturgeon dismissed the comments as "just silly", saying the two governments were working well together on COP -- and accused Johnson of "playing politics".

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