CHURCH leaders were last night branded âuseful idiotsâ after meeting and praising the Syrian government just days after the Douma gas attack.
A delegation of prominent Anglican vicars held a series of meetings with the Assad regime in Damascus just hours after Britain and allies launched a bombing raid on the troubled country.
President Assad is believed to have orchestrated a deadly chemical attack against rebels in Eastern Ghouta, a move which provoked a furious international response.
MPs last night said the meeting âdefied logicâ.
Giles Fraser, a priest from Kennington, south-east London, joined church figures including the Rev Andrew Ashdown and peers Baroness Cox and Lord Dykes for the tour over the weekend.
Mr Fraser slammed the British airstrike and tweet a series of pictures of the âprettyâ country just days after dozens were killed in the chemical weapons attack.
Last night he defended the visit, saying: âThere are some people that think we are in some way endorsing or propping up the regime, my own view is if the regime needs to be propped up by the vicar of Elephant and Castle that would be bizarre.â
Pressed on whether the meeting had at least offered the Assad government the kind of international legitimacy it craves, he continued: âI think itâs right for us to listen to all shades of opinion, but youâre right, there are risks coming out here and there are risks of misrepresentation, there are risks of optics, maybe thereâs not a risk-free way of doing it.
But Tory MP Nigel Evans hit back: âIt is hard to get your head around why a church leader would want to do that. To go at this time and tweet nice pictures of Damascus defies logic.â
Mr Evans went on: âHe appears to be one of the useful idiots – people who are prepared to visit the country at this time when its being ravaged by its own regime.
âI look forward to his future tweets condemning the Assad regime for his despicable attacks.â
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