The BBC says it will discuss any threats to its World Service with staff first after it was asked to consider the impact of possible "significant" spending cuts by the Foreign Office.

As part of the government's 2010 spending review the Foreign Office, which is reported to fund the World Service through an annual grant of £272 million, has asked the broadcaster to prepare for potential cuts to this funding which could take place next year.

According to a report by the Telegraph, this could mean BBC World Service could be forced to pull out of foreign countries, with Burma and Russia said to be the two most at risk. But in a statement the BBC said it would discuss any potential impact to its services with its staff first.

"Like all publicly funded bodies, we have been asked to consider the likely impact of significant funding cuts and applying them to a wide range of scenarios. It is important to note that no decisions have been made; and we will discuss any confirmed impact on our services with staff first.

"We will continue to argue confidently that the BBC World Service is one of Britain's most effective and vital assets in the global arena; particularly at a time when other governments are increasing, not reducing, their own investments in international broadcasting."

The National Union of Journalists said it will fight any proposed cuts, adding that the BBC World Service was a "clear success story"

"This announcement shows that for the ConDem government, public sector broadcasting, and the talented, hardworking journalists at BBC World service are totally expendable," NUJ deputy general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said in a statement. "The rumoured cut will mean the cutting of entire country services and will obviously threaten jobs. Along with our sister unions, we will fight these proposals with all our might."

The Foreign Office has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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