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Out of Gaffrica; REPORTER: So what do you think of Africa? PHILIP: I will pass on that, if you don't mind.

Byline: PAUL GILFEATHER in Abuja, Nigeria

PRINCE PHILIP made another incredible gaffe yesterday by insulting his hosts during a state visit to Africa.

The Royal consort dropped the clanger just hours before he was due to fly home after a four-day tour of Nigeria.

At a ceremony to celebrate the Commonwealth Heads of Government conference in Abuja he was asked by an Australian reporter what he thought of his African visit.

Bungling Philip said after a long pause: "I will pass on that, if you don't mind."

The remark was seen as a snub to his Nigerian hosts, who were staging the event for the first time.

And it overshadowed the Queen's efforts to retain Britain's strong ties with the Commonwealth, made up mainly of former UK colonies.

Philip's refusal to praise his African hosts was in sharp contrast to her diplomatic performance.

At the opening ceremony, she said: "This is an unmistakably African occasion."

She and her husband then enjoyed almost two hours of tribal dance and music.

The Queen, credited with using her powers to bolster the Commonwealth, beamed with pride during the ceremony.

It is thought she will be furious at her husband's gaffe, the latest in a long line of jibes.

One Nigerian official accused the Prince of destroying the spirit of the summit.

He said: "This is disgraceful behaviour and an insult to every country in Africa, not least the host, Nigerian President Obasanjo."

A British Council source in Nigeria added: "This kind of thing could set Commonwealth relations back 20 years.

"All he simply had to say was that he had enjoyed his stay in what is an amazing country."

During the visit Philip also visited crime-ridden Lagos, corruption capital of the world.

Tony Blair used the summit yesterday to bang the drum for London's bid to hold the Olympic Games in 2012.

He bagged almost half the votes needed to win after an impassioned plea to 26 Olympic voting countries.

He told them that Britain was "inspired'' following the success of last year's Commonwealth Games in Manchester.

And he told a special sports conference in Abuja that London could continue in its bid knowing it had the backing of the group of mainly former British colonies.

Mr Blair, who will leave the conference a day early today for personal reasons, said: "The Commonwealth's role in sport can be of huge significance.

"It's partly the success of the Commonwealth Games that has inspired us to make our Olympic bid.

"And it's a measure of the confidence that came to our country having held the Commonwealth Games that we felt able to make this an opportunity to show that not only could we host a wonderful sporting event but demonstrate something essential about the Commonwealth itself.''

He went on to hail the success of the Commonweatlh Games in Manchester to illustrate Britain's ability to organise events. "The whole spirit that it set alight, not just in our country but all the participating countries and beyond, is a tremendous tribute to what sport can do,'' he said.

Mr Blair's unsubtle bid for backing was risky.

Olympic rules forbid any lobbying for votes ahead of the verdict and the PM's remarks could ignite a fresh row with rivals Paris and New York.

London needs the backing of 60 of the 120 countries eligible to vote on the 2012 games.

ZIMBABWE'S leader Robert Mugabe last night moved to pre-empt a Commonwealth decision on sanctions against his country. He renewed threats to pull out of the organisation - even though his country is already suspended.

cmclaughlin@sundaymirror.co.uk

CAPTION(S):

'INSULTED': Nigerian President Obasanjo; BUNGLER: Philip at the ceremony yesterday
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Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Dec 7, 2003
Words:611
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