The decision to excuse a Muslim police officer from guarding the Israeli embassy was "not about political correctness" but was based on "risk and safety", Scotland Yard said yesterday.

Deputy Commissioner Paul Stephenson said the decision not to deploy, temporarily, Pc Alexander Omar Basha to the central London embassy was taken as a result of a risk assessment. It was not because of his personal views, Mr Stephenson said.

"I want to make it clear that this decision was taken on the basis of risk and safety."

Pc Basha, who is attached to the Metropolitan Police's Diplomatic Protection Group, was said to have asked for permission not to work at the embassy in London because he objected to the bombing of Lebanon.

Mr Stephenson said the impartial policing of all communities was "fundamental" to policing the UK.

However, he continued: "At the height of the Israeli/Lebanon conflict in August this year, the officer made his managers aware of his personal concerns, which included that he had Lebanese family members.

"Whilst the Israeli Embassy is not his normal posting, in view of the possibility that he could be deployed there, a risk assessment was undertaken, which is normal practice.

"It was as a result of this risk assessment that the decision was taken temporarily not to deploy him to the embassy."