Battle over Bush's UK security
Bush's state visit to the UK has sparked controversy.
LONDON, England -- A three-way battle is shaping up among protesters, British police and U.S. agents for control of London's streets during President George W. Bush's visit to London next week.
Anti-war protesters are vowing to resist moves to create an "exclusion zone" or "bubble" around Bush as part of security measures for his three-day state visit November 19-21.
Meanwhile, the White House and London's Metropolitan Police appear to be locked in a disagreement over the scope and control of a security operation estimated to cost £4 million ($6.7 million).
The deputy chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Richard Barnes, said Wednesday a clear line of command must be established to ensure that Scotland Yard and not the Americans are ultimately responsible for security.
"There must be a clear command structure so that ultimately it is the home secretary (interior minister) and the (police) commissioner that are in charge of the security and that there is no blurring of the edges," Barnes told the BBC.
The Stop The War Coalition, which is organizing a series of demonstrations during Bush's visit, said it would demand the right to march through the center of the capital as part of a protest that could attract more than 100,000 people.
The group says it has been told privately by senior police officers that a decision to ban the marchers from some parts of London followed pressure from the White House not to have people protesting near Bush.
"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 Lindsey German of the Stop the War Coalition.
The Times newspaper reported Wednesday that U.S. and UK authorities also are in disagreement over how many armed Secret Service agents can travel with Bush and whether they will be immune from prosecution if they fire their weapons.
The Times quoted unnamed senior British police officials as saying U.S. officials fear al Qaeda terrorists will use any chaos caused by street protests as cover to launch a suicide attack against Bush.
"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," The Times quoted a senior Scotland Yard source as saying.
The key protest is set for November 20 after Bush places a wreath at the tomb of the unknown warrior in Westminster Abbey and holds talks with his close ally in the Iraq war and the war on terrorism, Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Bush and Blair were the target of pre-war protests in London.
London Mayor Ken Livingstone said Bush should not be shielded from protesters in London and expressed hope there would not be a repeat of the "shameful" scenes that arose during the 1999 visit of President Jiang Zemin of China.
When Jiang rode up The Mall -- linking Trafalgar Square and Buckingham Palace -- police stopped demonstrators from holding up protest banners and Tibetan flags.
"The Met police were requested by Foreign Office officials that the police should make sure he did not see the demonstrators," Livingstone said.
"Those police were actually breaking the law as they took those banners away. We are not having any of that."
Any attempt to try to help Bush avoid protesters would be "inconceivable," Livingstone said, adding: "To create a situation in which perhaps 60,000 people remain unseen would require a shutdown of central London which is just not acceptable."
Blair entered the row Monday night, using a speech in London to defend the U.S. president over the Iraq war and urging protesters to draw a line under the conflict and move on. (Full story)
"For many the script of (Bush's) visit has already been written. There will be demonstrations. His friends wonder at the timing, his enemies rub their hands at what they see as the potential embarrassment," Blair said.
"I believe this is exactly the right time for the president of the United States to come.
"Protest if you will, that is your democratic right. ... though have the integrity to realize that without (the war), those Iraqis now tasting freedom would still be under the lash of Saddam."
An opinion poll Tuesday in The Times showed that many Britons believed the United States' international standing has suffered under Bush and dislike his handling of Iraq. (Full story)