Morrissey has labelled the staff of NME as "devious, truculent and unreliable" as he launches a legal action against the publication.

The former Smiths frontman is to sue the influential magazine after it printed an article regarding his views on immigration.

The 48-year-old - who has previously courted controversy by adorning himself in a Union flag at a concert with a known National Front contingent in attendance - is suing NME after it missed a deadline to apologise for focusing on his provocative comments regarding Britain's immigration policies.

The article quoted the singer, who now lives in Rome having relocated from Los Angeles, as saying Britain is paying an "enormous price" for its stance on immigration, allegedly telling the magazine: "The higher the influx into Britain the more the British identity disappears."

In a statement on fan website True to You, Morrissey said yesterday: "I believe they [NME] have deliberately tried to characterise me as a racist in a recent interview I gave them in order to boost their dwindling circulation.

"I abhor racism and oppression or cruelty of any kind and will not let this pass without being absolutely clear and emphatic with regard to what my position is."

Morrissey implied in the statement that the magazine had reacted petulantly to his two-time refusal of their 'Godlike Genius' award and accused NME editor Conor McNicholas of playing "the editorial naughtiness game".

"This, regrettably, is what has taken place with this most recent interview, which, it need hardly be said, bears no relation in print to the fleshly conversation that took place," he added.

Tim Jonze, the freelance writer responsible for the NME piece, has called the Hand in Glove star's actions "truly cowardly".

Writing on the Guardian's Comment is Free website, he asked: "How can Morrissey possibly claim a stitch-up when the interview is printed in Q&A form, his quotes are recorded on tape and he wasn't even asked about immigration in the first place?"

Jonze may however have an axe to grind against Morrissey, after the singer said: "I do not mean to be rude to Tim Jonze, but when I first caught sight of him I assumed that someone had brought their child along to the interview."

He added: "Tim accepted every answer I gave him with a schoolgirl giggle, and repeatedly asked me if I was shocked at how little he actually knew about music."

05/12/2007 10:02:34