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Britain complains to US about detention of Yusuf Islam

Associated Press, USA
Sep. 23, 2004 • Thursday September 23, 2004

LONDON (AP) – British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw has complained to U.S. officials about the detention of Yusuf Islam, the former pop star once known as Cat Stevens, who was denied entry to the United States because he was on a security watch list.

Islam was returning to Britain Thursday. Straw raised the issue with U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell at the annual U.N. General Assembly meeting in New York, the Foreign Office said.

“He (Straw) heard the reports of the incident involving Cat Stevens. He did say to the secretary of state that this action should not have been taken,” a British official said in New York, according to the British news agency Press Association.

The Foreign Office in London confirmed that Straw had raised the issue, but declined to say what he meant by “this action” – whether it was Islam’s detention, or his inclusion on the watch list.

Straw’s protest was a reversal of the Foreign Office’s hands-off position earlier Wednesday, when a spokeswoman had said “the reasons for his detention and return are obviously a matter for the U.S. and not for us.”

United Airlines Flight 919 was en route to Dulles International Airport near Washington, D.C., on Tuesday when U.S. officials reviewing the passenger list discovered Islam was aboard.

The aircraft was diverted to Maine’s Bangor International Airport, where federal agents met the plane and interviewed Islam.

He was placed on a plane back to London on Wednesday. Islam’s 21-year-old daughter, Maymanah, was allowed to stay in the country.

U.S. Homeland Security spokesman Brian Doyle would only say that the intelligence community has recently obtained information that “further heightens concern” about Yusuf Islam.

“Yusuf Islam has been placed on the watch lists because of activities that could potentially be related to terrorism,” Doyle said. “It’s a serious matter.”

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