Foreign Office Asked Oxford University To Admit Gaddafi's Son Saif al-Islam

Oxford Saif Alislam

Huffington Post UK   First Posted: 01/12/11 09:21 Updated: 01/12/11 15:31

The Foreign Office "lobbied" Oxford University to accept Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, son of the recently deposed dictator, in the hope of improving relations with Libya, an inquiry has found.

The investigation revealed the support shown by the British government, as well as UK firms, for Gaddafi's son to study in the country, The Guardian reported on Thursday.

Professor Valpy Fitzgerald, head of Oxford's department of international development, gave evidence at the inquiry to confirm the Tony Blair's government had asked him to consider admitting Saif as a student.

Lord Woolf, a former lord chief justice, led the inquiry, which was originally established to investigate the London School of Economics' links with Libya.

The LSE has recently been embroiled in scandal after it emerged the institution accepted a £1.5m donation from a charity run by Saif al-Islam. The university has since expressed regret over accepting the money, which funded a north Africa research programme.

The inquiry found a "disconcerting number of failures in communication and governance in the LSE's relations with the Libyan regime and director Sir Howard Davies has resigned over the scandal.

Oxford University told the Huffington Post they had "nothing to say" over the matter but confirmed Fitzgerald had given evidence at the inquiry.

Woolf's report reveals the Oxford professor was contacted by a senior civil servant at the FCO to "enquire if they could admit Saif to the MSc in development studies".

"It was made clear, [Fitzgerald] told me, the FCO would appreciate help in this case since Libya was opening up to the West again."

According to the report, Fitzgerald told the civil servant the "bottom line was whether [Saif] had adequate prior academic qualifications".

Oxford rejected Saif but LSE later accepted him, as well as the donation. The Libyan studied at the London university from 2003 to 2008 and gained a Master of Science degree and a doctorate.

Former director of LSE admitted he was "embarrassed" by the university ties with Gaddafi's family and the decision to accept research funding from the charity had "backfired".

In March LSE suffered further embarrassment after admitting it was investigating allegations Saif plagiarised his PhD thesis.

The FCO refused to comment on the Oxford University incident but a spokesman said the office had "done a lot to bring Libya in from the cold".

Saif is now in custody in Libya after his capture in the country's southern desert in November.

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