Egypt slams UK over Sharm el-Sheikh flights move amid plane crash bomb fears


The UK's move to suspend flights from Sharm el-Sheikh and carry out safety checks at the resort's airport amid fears that a bomb caused the crash of a Russian airliner has been criticised by Egypt.

A specialist British team has been sent to assess security arrangements after fresh intelligence led Downing Street to declare that the Airbus plane carrying 224 passengers "may well have been brought down by an explosive device".

But Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry told the BBC that was "a premature and unwarranted statement" which risked devastating consequences for the country's vital tourism industry.

The "precautionary" measure was revealed by Number 10 as Egyptian President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi arrived in the UK for a scheduled visit, due to include talks with David Cameron tomorrow.

The Prime Minister- who spoke with Mr al-Sisi about the crash by telephone last night - gathered senior ministers and security officials for a meeting of the Government's emergency Cobra committee to discuss the latest developments.

All those on board - mostly Russian tourists - were killed when the Metrojet flight bound for St Petersburg from Sharm came down in the Sinai desert on Saturday.

The nature of the crash and the lack of an SOS call have fuelled speculation that it was caused by a bomb or missile, although Cairo has sought to dismiss claims that the crash was the work of Islamist terrorists, such as the self-styled Islamic State.

Number 10 said halting the flights would allow UK experts "to make an assessment of the security arrangements in place at the airport and to identify whether any further action is required".

The work is expected to be concluded tonight.

Extra consular staff have been deployed to the airport but there has as yet been no change in official travel advice - which excludes Sharm and other Red Sea resorts from a caution against "all but essential" visits to other nearby parts of Egypt.

Thomson said it had temporarily suspended flights to and from the Egyptian resort and British Airways said it was "liaising closely with the Government and awaiting further information".

Budget airline easyJet said it had postponed two UK-bound flights to tomorrow following the advice from Downing Street.

Around 330 easyJet passengers are affected altogether, and are being put up in hotels locally.

The Irish Aviation Authority also directed Irish airlines not to fly to the area.