Britain hopes cleric will leave 'at earliest opportunity'

Britain said on Wednesday it wanted to see radical Islamist cleric Abu Qatada on a plane "at the earliest opportunity", after Jordan said he would finally be deported this weekend.

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said she could not comment directly on operational security matters, but said: "Our focus is on seeing Abu Qatada on a plane to Jordan at the earliest opportunity."

A Jordanian official told AFP on condition of anonymity that the cleric would leave Britain early on Sunday morning, after the two governments approved a treaty paving the way for his deportation.

Britain has been trying for years to deport Abu Qatada, considered an "exceptionally high-risk terrorist", but he has repeatedly blocked their attempts using human rights legislation.

In the House of Commons earlier Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron refused to say whether he believed the cleric would soon be leaving Britain, but made clear he would welcome his departure.

"I can confirm that this treaty has been taken through both the Jordanian parliament and also our own," Cameron told lawmakers at his weekly question and answer session.

"But I don't want to say anything that in any way could stop what we all want to happen, (from) happening."