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UK denies envoy's Kazakhstan visit is linked to Mittal

Shyam Bhatia in London | September 04, 2003 18:29 IST

The British Foreign Office has taken the unusual step of denying that Britain's richest Indian is in any way connected with this week's trip to Kazakhstan by Prime Minister Tony Blair's personal envoy Lord Levy.

Steel magnate Lakshmi Niwas Mittal, whose personal wealth has been estimated at close to 2 billion, was introduced by Levy to Blair in 2001 shortly before he agreed a controversial 125,000 donation to Britain's ruling Labour Party.

Subsequently, the British government interceded on behalf of one of Mittal's companies to help secure him a business deal in Romania.

This week Mittal is celebrating another business success following his deal with the Polish government to take over the country's biggest steelworks, Polskie Huty Stali, which makes his LNM Group one of Europe's major steel producers.

Less well known are Mittal's links with Kazakhstan where he also has major investments. He is Kazakhstan's honorary consul in the United Kingdom and a close personal friend of President Nazarbayev.

Kazakhstan is of interest to the UK and other Western industralised countries because of its vast oil reserves, which are greater than Kuwait's.

In London, a spokesman for the Foreign Office said, "Lord Levy will be delivering a message to the president of Kazakhstan as the representative of the prime minister. We are not going into the details of what he is doing, but in terms of central Asia, Kazakhstan is a regional leader and an important partner for us."

"This is his first visit, so to some extent he will be informing himself about the situation," the spokesman said.

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