Massive protests to welcome Bush in UK

The Times of India



LONDON: In a fire-fighting attempt to temper anti-Americanism, Tony Blair has launched his most passionate defence ever of America, its 21st-century wars on terror and President George 'Dubya' Bush, just seven days before the US president controversially sets foot on British soil. Bush's three-day visit, a state occasion initiated by the British monarch, is expected to pull an estimated 100,000 frenzied anti-war protestors, even anarchists, onto London streets from all over mainland Europe.

The demonstrations are expected to be the largest Bush has faced so far, post-Iraq.

But Blair, who himself newly faces fierce criticism from British voters for being too close to Bush, dared the anti-war protestors to do their worst.

"Protest if you will," Blair taunted anti-war protestors at an annual foreign policy jamboree here. "That is your democratic right. Attack the decision to go to war… But accept that the task is not to argue about what has been, but to make what is happening now work…"

Four-million pounds of British taxpayers' money, nearly 4,000 British bobbies and 250 well-armed US secret servicemen have been deployed to protect Bush during a visit widely described as a "security and logistical nightmare". American analysts have already taken to British television screens to admit London presents one of Bush's biggest hurdles in daring – and winning over – world public opinion.

London's anti-war mayor, Ken Livingstone, has already insisted protestors must have as much freedom as possible on the streets of the British capital.