SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday strongly defended Britain's achievements after a Russian official reportedly dismissed it as a "small island" with no international influence.
Cameron said no country had a "bigger heart" than Britain and listed achievements including defeating fascism in World War II, spawning the pop group One Direction and inventing what he said were most of the world's most popular sports.
British newspapers had quoted an unnamed Russian official at the G20 summit in Saint Petersburg as saying: "Britain is a small island -- nobody pays any attention to them apart from the Russian oligarchs who have bought up Chelsea."
Putin's spokesman Dmitry Pesko formally denied making the remark.
But the comments stung after Cameron lost a parliamentary vote last week on taking part in military action against Syria, leading to questions in Britain about London's relationship with Washington and its standing in the world.
Cameron told a press conference after the summit: "Yes we are a small island, in fact a small group of islands, but I would challenge anyone to come up with a country with a prouder history, with a bigger heart, with a greater resilience.
"This is a country that cleared the European continent of fascism, that took slavery off the high seas.
"We're a country that has invented many of the things that are most worthwhile, everything from the industrial revolution to the television to the world wide web. Our music delights and amuses millions, the Beatles, Elgar and slightly less congruously One Direction have conquered the world.
"We've invented most of the sports that the world most likes playing."
But Cameron said he would not endorse the comment made on Twitter by one of his Conservative party's members of parliament, Henry Smith, who described Russian President Vladimir Putin as a "tosser".
"I'm not a regular follower of Twitter but insulting people should never have a part in foreign policy, we should try to maintain good manners and politeness even when under intolerable pressure," Cameron said with a smile.