UK & World News
Peer Suspended Over President Obama 'Bounty'
A House of Lords peer has been suspended over reports that he offered a £10m "bounty" for the capture of the US President.
The Labour Party suspended Lord Nazir Ahmed after claims he was said to have offered the cash for the capture of Barack Obama and his predecessor George W Bush.
Pakistan's Express Tribune newspaper said the remarks were made by Lord Ahmed at a reception in Haripur, Pakistan, on April 13.
He allegedly made the comments at the function in response to an American reward for the capture of a prominent Pakistani radical.
Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, who founded the violent extremist group Lashkar e Taiba, is blamed for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks in which 166 people were killed.
A Labour spokesman said: "We have suspended Lord Ahmed pending investigation.
"If these comments are accurate, we utterly condemn these remarks which are totally unacceptable.
"The international community is rightly doing all in its power to seek justice for the victims of the Mumbai bombings and halt terrorism."
The newspaper said the peer called the US bounty on Saeed "an insult to all Muslims".
"If the US can announce a reward of £10m for the captor of Hafiz Saeed, I can announce a bounty of £10m on President Obama and his predecessor George Bush," he is reported to have said.
Lord Ahmed firmly denied offering a bounty but said he had told the meeting that Mr Bush and ex-Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair should be prosecuted for war crimes.
Speaking from Pakistan, he said no one from the Labour party had contacted him before announcing the suspension and challenged it to provide evidence for the decision.
"They have suspended me? That's a surprise to me. I did not know," Lord Ahmed said.
Asked about the reported comments, he said: "I never said those words. I did not offer a bounty. I said that there have been war crimes committed in Iraq and Afghanistan and those people who have got strong allegations against them.
"George W Bush and Tony Blair have been involved in illegal wars and should be brought to justice. I do not think there's anything wrong with that."
He added: "If the Labour Party want to suspend me I will deal with the Labour Party. They will have to give me some evidence."
Born in Kashmir but raised in Rotherham, Lord Ahmed joined the Labour Party at 18 and was on Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council for 18 years.
After university, he ran a chain of shops and became a property developer while burnishing his political career by serving as a magistrate, chairing the South Yorkshire Labour Party and working as a non-executive director of Rotherham Health Authority.
He was a founder member of the British Muslim Councillors' Forum in 1992 and made a life peer in 1998, after which he became a prominent commentator on issues facing British Muslims.
He was involved in the Government's Forced Marriage Working Group and led a government delegation to Mecca in 2000.
But his political career has also been dogged by a series of controversies. In 2007 he hit the headlines when he criticised the awarding of a knighthood to Salman Rushdie.
And in 2008, he had to publicly deny rumours he planned to defect to the Conservative Party, alleging the speculation was being spread by a Labour minister who was a "sad loser".
Lord Ahmed was also jailed for 12 weeks for dangerous driving in 2009 after sending and receiving text messages minutes before he was involved in a fatal motorway crash.