London, June 17 (ANI): Sir John Sawers, who is the British Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, has been appointed as the head MI6, the first outsider in more than 40 years.
Sawers will replace Sir John Scarlett in November 2009 to become the Chief or "C" of the Secret Intelligence Service, colloquially known as M16.
"There has always been a battle between No 10 and the Foreign Office over who is in charge of foreign policy, and this appointment will give the Prime Minister the chance to deploy Sir John for covert diplomacy, making use of a man who is unquestionably a Grade One ambassador, not a spook," The Sun quoted an insider, as saying.
Sawyers appointment was announced by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband.
The appointment has come as a surprise to many as the government has chosen an outsider, whereas generally it is the present deputy to the chief who is promoted to the post of "C".
When he becomes "C", he will play a vital role in ensuring that new guidelines on the questioning of terrorist detainees are enforced rigidly by MI6's intelligence officers.
Sir John Sawers does have espionage in his blood. He began his career with MI6 in 1977, serving in Yemen and Syria. He then switched to the Diplomatic Service in the 1980s, following a more conventional path as a British envoy.
He had held several overseas posts as a diplomat, including in Pretoria and Washington, and was appointed Ambassador in Cairo in 2001. For three months he was the Government's special representative in Baghdad. (ANI)