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Claim of Blair-guru relationship draws Downing Street snub
Updated: 2004-03-09 10:34

Downing Street dumped cold water on claims from a convicted Australian fraudster that Prime Minister Tony Blair had a close relationship with his wife's lifestyle guru.

In a forthcoming book, Peter Foster alleges that his ex-fiance Carole Caplin -- who advised Cherie Blair on wardrobe and health matters -- exerted "extraordinary influence" over the prime minister as well.

Foster reportedly says the two took "long walks in the woods around Chequers", the prime minister's country retreat outside London, and that they telephoned each other at night, holding lengthy conversations.

Political analysts in London, even those with anti-Blair sentiments, have brushed asaide Foster's allegations.

So has Caplin, who has called them "absurd" and "a new way for Peter to get attention".

Blair's official spokesman was equally dismissive on Monday, telling reporters Monday: "We are not going to dignify these allegations by responding to them."

Foster, 40, hit the headlines in December 2002 when it emerged he negotiated knock-down rates on two apartments for Blair's wife Cherie, who was then forced to deny interfering to prevent his deportation from Britain.

Mrs Blair has confirmed -- and publicly regretted -- that Foster helped her to find and buy the apartments in Bristol, west England, where the Blairs' eldest son Euan is at university.

Foster has done time in prison in Australia, Britain and the United States for running fraudulent advertising campaigns for bogus weight-loss products, notably one called Bai Lin tea.

Foster reportedly suggests that Caplin picked out the prime minister's wardrobe "right down to his underpants".

"The intensity and the closeness of their relationship was something I saw, was amazed and annoyed by," he said, adding that he considered himself the third wheel in their relationship.

Foster has been writing his book titled "A Question of Deceit," since he was deported to Australia a month after the Brisol apartment fiasco -- dubbed Cheriegate -- broke into the open.

Last week his lawyers went to court in Brisbane, Australia in a bid to stop publication of reputedly sensitive information which, in Foster's opinion, could potentially bring Blair down.

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