British Embassy to create new public affairs operation

WASHINGTON: The British Embassy is forming a new public affairs team, separate from its existing press office, to better push the priorities of the UK and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

WASHINGTON: The British Embassy is forming a new public affairs team, separate from its existing press office, to better push the priorities of the UK and Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Like many foreign embassies, Britain's press office has long consisted of a handful of public affairs officers responding to press inquiries. Judy Legg, director of British information services, said the team rarely pushes issues with the media, but rather serves as a clearinghouse for information requests.

The new team represents a desire on behalf of UK officials to more aggressively promote its political interests in the US.

"There is a sense that we need to basically get smart to support those [interests] rather than wait for people to ask about them," said Legg, who is now leading the search for seven public affairs pros to man the team.

Among the issues Legg expects to push are global warming and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

"This will be much more campaign-style stuff," she said. "This team of seven is going to have its work cut out for them."

The team's budget will likely be tiny in proportion to its mission. A similar team currently works with a $100,000 annual budget, which isn't likely to increase much for the new effort.

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