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Gavin Williamson named new British defense secretary

Xinhua | Updated: 2017-11-02 20:25

Britain's Secretary of State for Defence Gavin Williamson is seen in Downing Street, London, Britain, November 2, 2017. [Photo/Agencies]

LONDON - Gavin Williamson was appointed on Thursday as the new British defense secretary to replace Michael Fallon, who resigned Wednesday over allegations about his past inappropriate behavior.

Williamson, the former chief whip, was a surprise appointment to the role, having risen quickly through the cabinet ranks but holding no real defense experience.

Julian Smith, the former deputy, has been appointed chief whip and Esther McVay, who only returned to British Parliament this year, takes on the deputy role.

British Prime Minister Theresa May's minority government suffered a heavy blow Wednesday night with the resignation of Fallon.

In a letter to the prime minister, Fallon said that his behavior had "fallen short" of the "high standards" expected of the British armed forces.

Accepting his resignation, May said in a separate letter that she noted the "characteristically serious manner" in which Fallon had considered his position.

The resignation came a day after Fallon admitted he had touched the knee of a journalist at a party conference event 15 years ago.

Fallon apologized this week over the past incident in which he made unwanted advances to the journalist, Julia Hartley-Brewer, repeatedly placing his hand on her knee.

Allegations of inappropriate behavior have been swirling around U.S. film producer Harvey Weinstein over the past weeks since the Weinstein scandal encouraged women to speak out about their experiences of sexual abuse or harassment.

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