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Britain names new head of MI6

BRITAIN named high-profile ambassador John Sawers yesterday as the new head of its Secret Intelligence Service, also known as MI6, saying he was rejoining the espionage agency after years as a diplomat.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown's spokesman said Sawers - Britain's ambassador to the United Nations - would take up the post in November when John Scarlett is due to retire.

Sawers, who is in his early 50s, is a former ambassador to Egypt and political director of the British Foreign Office. He was a member of MI6 early in his career and was now rejoining it, an official said.

Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he welcomed the appointment and looked forward to working with him.

"International terrorism, proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the growth of regional conflict and instability mean that there has never been a time when the skills and dedication of our intelligence agencies, including SIS, have been more necessary to our national security and the safety of our people around the world," he said.

Scarlett has been chief of the service since 2004, a post he took up after a period as head of the Joint Intelligence Committee, which assembles information from several intelligence arms.

A probe into Britain's pre-war intelligence leading up to the 2003 Iraq invasion criticized Scarlett for putting his name on a dossier that then Prime Minister Tony Blair used to justify war.

The dossier made the intelligence appear stronger than it was, and the seal of approval from Scarlett's JIC made it worse, the chairman of the official inquiry Lord Butler concluded.



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