David Cameron apologises after claiming former imam "supports IS"

British Tory leader had linked Suliman Gani to jihadist group in House of Commons speech

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Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron leaves No 10 Downing Street | Image: Frank Augstein / AP/Press Association Images

British Prime Minister David Cameron has apologised for "any misunderstanding" after accusing a former imam of being an Islamic State supporter.

The Tory leader claimed during the London mayoral campaign that Suliman Gani supported the jihadist group.

But Downing Street said Mr Cameron was referring to reports that Mr Gani, a former imam at the Tooting Islamic Centre, supports "an" Islamic state.

A Number 10 spokesman said: "In reference to the Prime Minister's comments on Suliman Gani, the Prime Minister was referring to reports that he supports an Islamic state.

"The Prime Minister is clear this does not mean Mr Gani supports the organisation Daesh and he apologises to him for any misunderstanding."

During Prime Minister's Questions last month, attacking Labour's Sadiq Khan and claiming he was a threat to security in London, Mr Cameron said: "Suliman Gani, Mr Khan has appeared on a platform with him nine times.

"This man supports IS. He even shared a platform.

"Anyone can make a mistake about who they appear on a platform with. We're not always responsible for what our political opponents say. But if you do it time after time after time it is right to question your judgment."

His comments are protected by parliamentary privilege.

'Disgraceful, racist campaign'

Speaking to Sky News last week, Mr Gani challenged the Prime Minister to make the comments outside Parliament.

"Coming from the Prime Minister, somebody who has such parliamentary privilege, to defame me at such a high level ... I find this defamation, this false allegation without any evidence ... this is unacceptable behaviour and I really, really demand an apology," he said.

Hours before Mr Cameron's apology, British Defence Secretary Michael Fallon, who made similar allegations about Mr Gani during the mayoral campaign, apologised.

Mr Fallon said he had been quoting a claim made in a TV debate.

Earlier today, Mr Cameron was accused during PMQs of a "disgraceful, racist campaign" against Labour's Sadiq Khan by the Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron.

"Will he take the opportunity to apologise for deliberately dividing communities in order to win cheap votes?" Mr Farron asked in the final question of the half-hour session.

But a defiant Mr Cameron refused to apologise, hitting back: "It's a great way to end the session getting a lesson in clean campaigning from the Liberal Democrats."