British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson quipped Libya had the potential to become a new Dubai if it could clear the dead bodies away — the latest gaffe by Britain's top diplomat.
- "They've got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte," Boris Johnson says
- Some activists from Prime Minister Theresa May's party laugh at the joke
- Mr Johnson said he was referring to clearing of booby trapped bodies
Mr Johnson, who has offended some allies with flippant remarks, told Conservative Party members the Libyan city of Sirte could be turned into the next Dubai by British investors if they could clear the bodies.
"They've got a brilliant vision to turn Sirte, with the help of the municipality of Sirte, to turn it into the next Dubai," Mr Johnson said.
"The only thing they've got to do is clear the dead bodies away and then we will be there."
Some activists from Prime Minister Theresa May's party laughed at the joke before the chair of the event changed the subject, saying: "Next question."
Britain and France took a leading role in the attacks that helped rebels overthrow Moamar Gaddafi in 2011.
The country has since descended into chaos, with thousands of casualties.
The Islamic State group took over Sirte in early 2015, turning it into their most important base outside the Middle East and attracting large numbers of foreign fighters into the city. It was later cleared of the militants.
In a series of late night posts on Twitter, Mr Johnson said he was referring to the clearing of booby trapped bodies of the Islamic State group fighters.
He said on Twitter that Britain "played a key role in reconstruction" and he had visited Libya twice this year in support.
When asked about Mr Johnson's comments, Ms May's deputy Damian Green said all ministers needed to be careful with their language when dealing with sensitive issues, but refrained from criticising the Foreign Minister.
The Labour Party's spokeswoman for foreign affairs, Emily Thornberry, said Mr Johnson's joke was shameful and questioned whether Ms May would take any action to reprimand him.
Ms May's appointment of Mr Johnson, who in the run-up to Britain's referendum on European Union membership compared the goals of the EU to those of Adolf Hitler and Napoleon, caused consternation in some European capitals.
Britain's ambassador to Myanmar was forced to interrupt Mr Johnson earlier this year, as he tried to recite a nostalgic colonial poem by Rudyard Kipling in public during a visit to the country's most famous Buddhist site.