Kerry opposes contract for controversial colonel

US Presidential candidate John Kerry has publicly backed calls for an investigation into a decision to award a multi-million dollar security contract to a controversial former British army colonel.

Mr Kerry is one of five US senators, including Teddy Kennedy and Hillary Clinton, who have written to US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld about a lucrative security contract awarded to former British Army colonel Tim Spicer.

Mr Spicer has acted in defence of the two soldiers who murdered 18-year-old Peter McBride in the New Lodge area of Belfast in 1992. Mr Spicer said he was “delighted” when Scots Guards James Fisher and Mark Wright were retained in the British Army despite being convicted of the murder.

In 1999, Mr Spicer’s former security company Sandline International was at the centre of a political controversy after a parliamentary inquiry found it had illegally shipped arms to Sierra Leone in breach of a UN embargo.

In a letter to Mr Rumsfeld, the senators wrote: “The US government requires all contractors to be responsible bidders.

“We would like to know whether the government considered human rights abuses, or an individual who vigorously defends them, as part of this record.”

Irish National Caucus spokesman Father Sean McManus, who is leading the campaign to have Mr Spicer’s contract overturned, welcomed the support of the influential US politicians.

“I am very grateful to these five Senators”, said Fr. McManus, who had written to all of them asking for their support. “They are showing sensitivity to the family of Peter Mc Bride, and a concern for basic human rights and decency.

“President Bush must do likewise. He must cancel this contract. President Bush must decide if he wants the respect of Irish-Americans or the gratitude of Timothy Spicer for the fat contract. He cannot have both.”

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