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Mayor condemned for attack on Bush

Ken Livingstone
Livingstone: Unknown at the White House

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LONDON, England (CNN) -- London Mayor Ken Livingstone has come under fire for comments about George W. Bush, in which he described the U.S. president as "corrupt."

The controversial left-wing leader made his attack on Thursday. He told a forum of 200 schoolchildren: "I think George Bush is the most corrupt president since Harding in the twenties. He is not the legitimate president."

He added: "This (The U.S. administration) really is a completely unsupportable government and I look forward to it being overthrown as much as I looked forward to Saddam Hussein being overthrown."

Later in Washington, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said: "First of all, I've never heard of the fellow. Second, I'm not going to dignify it with a response."

Livingstone's comments came as the city prepares to launch "Totally London" -- a month-long marketing drive to encourage visitors and generate business.

Some shoppers on the streets of London told CNN they thought the comments were ill-advised. "Americans are patriotic, we don't want to end up like France," one told CNN.

Others, however, agreed with Livingstone. Fiona Robbins, from Brighton, said: "Ken is quite right. I don't care that Bush is not democratically elected -- that's a quibble from the past. What's more important is that he's a threat to world peace."

"Good for him for speaking up and saying what most people believe, but are too scared to admit publicly," said another.

Steven Norris, the Conservative Party candidate for London mayor, told the UK Press Association: "It is utterly irresponsible for the mayor to mouth off about the U.S. president at a time when we need to do all we can to attract back American tourists."

And Bob Cotton of the British Hospitality Association told the London Evening Standard newspaper: "Irrespective of politics, the USA is a key partner for Britain and the people coming to Britain. I think now is the time for positive political leadership to help London."

Livingstone was elected London mayor in 2000 as an independent candidate having been expelled from the Labour Party.

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