Bush unfazed by UK protests
( 2003-11-15 10:34) (Agencies)
U.S. President George W. Bush says he is prepared for widespread anti-war protests during his state visit to Britain next week.
Bush will be the first U.S. president to make a state visit to Britain in modern times, but it comes amid strong opposition to U.S. policy in Iraq.
Tens of thousands of anti-war demonstrators are expected to take to London's streets during Bush's visit November 19-21, vowing to resist moves to create an "exclusion zone" or "bubble" around the president as part of security measures.
"I can understand people not liking war, if that's what they're there to protest," Bush said. "I fully understand not everybody is going to agree with the decisions I've made. I don't expect everybody to agree."
He added: "I admire a country which welcomes people to express their opinion. I'm proud of Great Britain's tradition of free speech."
The president also plans to meet some of relatives of the 54 British soldiers killed in Iraq to tell them their loved ones died for a "noble cause."
"I am going to meet some. There's two messages. One, the prayers of the American people and the prayers of the president are with them, as they suffer," he added.
"Secondly, that I will tell them that their loved ones did not die vain. The actions we have taken will make the world more secure and the world more peaceful in the long run."
But the father of a military policeman killed in Iraq angrily rejected Bush's claims that his son died for a "noble cause."
Reg Keys, 51, whose son Lance Corporal Thomas Keys was one of six Royal Military Policemen gunned down defending a civilian police station in Al Majar al-Kabir near Basra in June, said he would like to meet the president to tell him that he was responsible for his son's death.
Keys said: "I am totally against his visit. I don't know how he has the nerve to show his face in this country after costing the lives of 54 British soldiers for his own glory.
"I do not see a noble cause. I looked at my son's bullet-riddled body and that did not seem very noble to me.
"He did not die for a noble cause. He was just killed by a mob."
Bush's comments came in an interview in Washington with British newspapers the Daily Telegraph and Financial Times and the UK's news agency Press Association.
Bush also said he would "listen and look" at the growing controversy with Europe over U.S.-imposed steel tariffs.
The World Trade Organization has ruled against the tariffs, and UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has urged Washington to end them and avoid 100 percent duties which could be imposed on U.S. imports in retaliation.
Asked if he was going to lift the tax, Bush said: "I am listening, looking and we'll decide at an appropriate time. I haven't made up my mind yet."
The United States faces up to ?.3 billion ($2.2 billion) in trade sanctions from the European Union after the ruling that said the tariffs on imported steel introduced by Bush were illegal.
Any failure to lift them could see 100 percent duties imposed on U.S. imports -- effectively pricing them out of the market -- in retaliatory action backed by the WTO.
On a lighter note, Bush also spoke of his excitement at being the first U.S. leader to make a full state visit and of his stay with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace.
"Obviously, staying at Buckingham Palace is going to be an historic moment. I never dreamt when I was living in Midland, Texas, that I would be staying in Buckingham Palace," he said.
"Buckingham Palace has got a resonance to it here in America which is pretty
grand and pretty magnificent. I've been looking forward to it."
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