Australian defence chief to apologise to Tania Zaetta

June 4th, 2008 - 2:33 pm ICT by IANS  

By Neena Bhandari
Sydney, June 4 (IANS) Australian entertainer turned Bollywood starlet Tania Zaetta will receive a personal apology from Australia’s defence chief over unsubstantiated claims that she had sex with Australian soldiers while on an Armed Forces Entertainment Tour to Afghanistan. Zaetta was named in a confidential briefing paper - officially referred to as a “hot issues brief” - to Australian Defence Minister Joel Fitzgibbon as having slept with soldiers last month at a military base in Tarin Kowt, the capital of Oruzgan province of Afghanistan.

The story made international headlines May 22 when News Limited newspapers published details of the leaked defence briefing paper. Zaetta has strenuously refuted the claims as “complete made-up lies”.

Air Chief Marshal Angus Houston, chief of the defence force, told a Senate estimates hearing Wednesday: “A quick assessment has been completed. There was no substance to the allegations and I will conclude the matter with a letter to the person in question. I will obviously apologise and express my deep regret about any hurt she has suffered.”

Admitting that the department mishandled the issue, Air Chief Marshal Houston said: “It was not well handled by us. I was absolutely appalled that the names were put out in the ‘hot issues brief’ and I regret the whole thing.”

Meanwhile, Liberal senator Marise Payne told local media that Zaetta should have been warned as soon as the defence department became aware of the potential publication of the allegations.

“The information had the potential to do enormous damage to an individual’s reputation,” she told reporters.

The 37-year-old has played minor cameo roles in Bollywood films like “Salaam Namaste” and “Mr Black, Mr White”.

She has co-hosted the 1990s television show “Who Dares Wins” and has appeared on “Baywatch” and “Mission Implausible”, a British pay-TV show.

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