Foreign Office aide attended peace summit run by Moonies

Evening Standard, UK/February 16, 2009

A Foreign Office ministerial aide was today accused of "sheer incompetence" after it emerged he attended a summit in Africa organised by the Moonies cult.

Labour MP Dave Anderson spent five days in Kenya at a "peace leadership" conference run by the Universal Peace Federation, a religious group founded by the Rev Dr Sun Myung Moon.

The Korean-born billionaire declares himself to be the messiah and his movement, famous for its mass weddings, has been accused of brainwashing young people.

Mr Anderson, parliamentary private secretary to Foreign Office minister Bill Rammell, defended his presence at the conference.

He said he knew the Moonies had organised the event before he flew to Nairobi in August. "I knew exactly where they were coming from. I am not stupid, but sometimes you have to deal with people that you don't like," he said.

"I will work with people of goodwill no matter what their beliefs."

"I made it very, very clear to them, I don't sign up to their religious beliefs."

Mr Anderson, the MP for Blaydon on Tyneside, claimed he had met members of Sinn Fein and the IRA as well as former loyalist terrorists from Northern Ireland at the conference.

Shadow minister for foreign affairs David Lidington suggested Mr Anderson's presence at the conference had been a mistake.

"If the Moonies are influencing Labour foreign policy it starts to explain quite a lot," Mr Lidington said.

"Considering he was going there as a representative of Britain, you would expect he would at least check out who was running the conference.

Rev Moon, who set up the cult in the Fifties, had a 27-year travel ban against him lifted by former home secretary Charles Clarke in 2005 and was given permission to enter Britain for 24 hours to address a rally in London.

Labour's Frank Cook, MP for Stockton-on-Tees, travelled to Japan and Korea last April to attend another "peace conference" organised by the Moonies, according to the House of Commons member of interests.

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