Al-Qaeda threat to Bush during Britain trip

12 November 2003

LONDON : Al-Qaeda terrorists using the cover of anti-war protests are a real threat to the safety of US President George W. Bush during his state visit to London next week, Britain's most senior policemen have warned.

"We are not so concerned about some anti-war protester throwing rotten fruit at the president. Our worry now is the more dangerous elements who may be here," said a senior Scotland Yard source quoted in The Times newspaper Wednesday.

The report came the day after anti-war demonstrators accused the government of blocking their right to protest in central London against Bush's visit from November 18 to 21.

The Stop the War Coalition, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), and the Muslim Association of Great Britain intend to organize a 100,000-strong march on November 20 around the main government buildings.

But, according to Stop The War coalition, police have said any demonstration through Parliament Square and Whitehall in the heart of the capital would be banned.

"It is an outrage that the most unwelcome guest this country has ever received will be given the freedom of the streets, while a movement that represents majority opinion is denied the right to protest in the area which is the heart of government," said Stop the War Coalition convenor Lindsey German.

"The police claim that the ban is to do with the sessional order that prevents demonstrations when parliament is sitting. But, previous demonstrations have gone along this route when parliament is in session," German said.

White House planners have reportedly pressed British authorities to virtually shut down most of central London in a major security operation during Bush's visit.

A Scotland Yard source quoted Wednesday in The Times described the original demands made by the US Secret Service as "totally unacceptable".

"They wanted to turn London into little Washington by closing roads for miles around, hours before the president's motorcade passes, and that is just not acceptable here," the unnamed source said.

Last February an estimated one million people marched through London in the run-up to the US-led invasion of Iraq, in one of the biggest street protests ever seen in the capital.

Bush will stay with Queen Elizabeth II as her guest at Buckingham Palace. He will also have talks with Prime Minister Tony Blair, his staunchest ally in the showdown with Saddam Hussein.

A clear majority of British voters think Bush was wrong on Iraq according to a poll Tuesday.

A majority, 60 percent, disapproved of the way Bush had dealt with Iraq compared to the 20 percent who backed his actions.

Almost half of all those asked, 49 percent, thought military action in Iraq was wrong compared with 24 percent polled back in April.