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Boris Johnson has said Libyan city Sirte could be the new Dubai, adding, “all they have to do is clear the dead bodies away”.

The foreign secretary’s comments at a Conservative conference fringe meeting have sparked anger, with Labour calling them “crass, callous and cruel”.

Conservative MP Heidi Allen said he should be sacked, as did the Lib Dems. Mr Johnson claimed his critics had “no knowledge or understanding of Libya” and accused them of playing politics.

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“There’s a group of UK business people, actually, some wonderful guys who want to invest in Sirte on the coast, near where Gaddafi was captured and executed as some of you may have seen. 

They have got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte into the next Dubai. The only thing they have got to do is clear the dead bodies away,” he said, before laughing.

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The host of the conference fringe event, Legatum Institute chief executive Baroness Stroud, stepped in to say “next question”, as the foreign secretary continued to speak.