Peer suspended after bounty claim

image captionLord Ahmed said he had not issued a bounty

A Labour peer suspended from the party after accusations he called for a £10m bounty for the capture of US Presidents Obama and Bush has denied the claims.

Lord Ahmed is reported to have made the call after the US offered a $10m bounty for the conviction of the founder of a Pakistani-based militant group.

But Lord Ahmed denied offering a bounty, saying he was talking about "war crimes" in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The Labour Party said if the comments were true they "utterly condemn" them.

Lord Ahmed's alleged remarks, published in the Express Tribune newspaper , were said to have been made in response to an announcement from Washington earlier this month of a $10m bounty for information leading to the arrest and conviction of Hafiz Saeed, the founder of the Pakistani-based Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group.

The Indian government blames Mr Saeed and his organisation for carrying out several militant attacks on its territory, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks.

Lord Ahmed, according to the Express Tribune, said: "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."

Labour investigation

The paper adds that the peer went on to say "he would arrange the bounty at any cost even if he was left with the option of selling all his personal assets, including his house."

The paper said the comments were made at a reception arranged in his honour by the business community of Haripur, Pakistan, on Friday.

A Labour Party spokeswoman told the BBC: "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."

War crime allegations

According to Lord Ahmed on Sunday night, Labour party officials had not contacted him before announcing the suspension.

"They have suspended me? That's a surprise to me. I did not know," he told the Press Association.

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."

In 2009, Lord Ahmed was jailed after he was caught sending and receiving text messages at the wheel, minutes before he was involved in a fatal crash on the M1.

He was released after serving 16 days when the Court of Appeal decided his prison sentence should be suspended.

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