By DANICA KIRKA
LONDON (AP) _ The U.K.’s first female Muslim Cabinet member resigned Tuesday in protest of the British government’s policies on Gaza, describing the approach as “morally indefensible” and detrimental to the national interest.
Sayeeda Warsi, a Foreign Office minister of Pakistani descent, announced her departure on her Twitter feed. The move apparently took Downing Street off guard, and loaded more pressure on Prime Minister David Cameron, who is under fire by the opposition and members of his own party for his staunch support of Israel.
“My view has been that our policy in relation to the Middle East peace process generally, but more recently our approach and language during the current crisis in Gaza, is morally indefensible, is not in Britain’s national interest and will have a long-term detrimental impact on our reputation internationally and domestically,” Warsi said in her resignation letter.
Britain supports a two-state solution. In his response letter to Warsi, released by Downing Street, Cameron said the country has “consistently made clear our grave concerns about the heavy toll of civilian casualties and have called on Israel to exercise restraint, and to find ways to bring this fighting to an end.”
Warsi’s departure robs Cameron of one of the most visible Conservative Party women in power. She was often seen at Cameron’s side and was a poster girl of sorts _ an example of the party’s efforts to embrace cultural diversity.
Labour leader Ed Miliband quickly seized upon the news, describing Warsi as having acted with “principle and integrity.”
“I hope that David Cameron will reflect on what she says in her resignation letter and change his approach,” he told the BBC.
Cameron’s letter to Warsi expressed regret that they were not able to speak before her departure, but was effusive in its praise.
“You can take pride in your achievements in government and, especially, for being the first Muslim woman in any British Cabinet,” he said.