LONDON - Facebook has rebuffed a call by British Prime Minister David Cameron for the removal of tributes to the gunman Raoul Moat which have been left on the social networking site.

Cameron condemned the online praise being paid to the "callous murderer" yesterday and instructed Downing Street to raise its concerns with the company over the web page of the "RIP Raoul Moat You Legend" group.

But the site replied: "Facebook is a place where people can express their views and discuss things in an open way as they can and do in many other places, and as such we sometimes find people discussing topics others may find distasteful.

"However, that is not a reason in itself to stop a debate from happening. We have 26 million people on Facebook in the UK, each of which has their own opinion, and they are entitled to express their views on Facebook as long as their comments do not violate our terms."

Cameron was urged by Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris to contact Facebook's founder Mark Zuckerberg again to ask the company to take down the page.

Cameron told MPs: "As far as I can see, it is absolutely clear that Raoul Moat was a callous murderer - full stop, end of story - and I cannot understand any wave, however small, of public sympathy for this man.

"There should be sympathy for his victims and for the havoc he wreaked in that community. There should be no sympathy for him."

Moat's rampage ended with one death and the blinding of a police officer.

- INDEPENDENT