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Bush Pulls Out Of Speech To Parliament


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Nov 17 2003

By Bob Roberts, Political Correspondent

GEORGE Bush was last night branded chicken for scrapping his speech to Parliament because he feared being heckled by anti-war MPs.

The US president planned to give a joint address to the Commons and Lords during his state visit to Britain.

But senior White House adviser Dr Harlan Ullman said: "They would have loved to do it because it would have been a great photo-opportunity.

"But they were fearful it would to turn into a spectacle with Labour backbenchers walking out."



The decision to abandon the speech came as extraordinary security measures costing £19million placed London under a state of virtual siege ahead of Mr Bush's arrival tomorrow.

Roads in Whitehall were closed with concrete blockades. Overhead, a no-fly zone has been established with the RAF on standby to shoot down unidentified planes. All police leave is cancelled.

The only speech Mr Bush, who will stay with the Queen at Buckingham Palace, is now due to give will be to an "invited audience" at the Banqueting House in Whitehall.

Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn said: "This is yet another slight on this country by the president of the USA.

"The least he could do is subject himself to questions from MPs."

And colleague John McDonnell said: "Bush might be able to run from the protesters, he might be able not to see the banners.

"But he must not be able to hide from the anger felt across the country at this unjustified war."

Previous world leaders, including Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Francois Mitterand, have all given speeches to the Lords and the Commons while visiting Britain.

Tony Blair gave a joint address to the American Senate and Congress in July.

But earlier this year, Bush was embarrassed when he was heckled by MPs in Australia.

Downing Street last night refused to comment on the president's itinerary.

A spokesman said: "We have said consistently the programme details will be announced at the appropriate moment. There is nothing to add to this."

The row about the speech came after President Bush set up a showdown with demonstrators by refusing to be apologetic on the Gulf war.

In an interview with the BBC's Breakfast with Frost show, he said they would not "cut and run" from Iraq. He added: "We will not be defeated by the terrorists."

Mr Bush also refused to grant British pleas for mercy for the six Britons held in Guantanamo Bay.

He said: "They will go through a military tribunal at some point, a military tribunal in international accord, or in line with international accords."

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