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Last Updated: Friday, 14 November, 2003, 14:11 GMT
Bush to meet soldiers' families
Flags along the Mall
Mr Bush was looking forward to his 'historic' stay at Buckingham Palace
US President George Bush plans to meet the families of some UK troops killed in Iraq when he visits London.

He said he would tell them their relatives had not died in vain and that the prayers of the American people were with them.

His comments came as anti-war campaigners met with Scotland Yard to finalise a protest to be held during the presidential visit next week.

President Bush said he will not be upset by mass protests.

When asked about the families of the 54 British soldiers killed in Iraq, President Bush said: "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.

Tuesday 18 November - Arrives and receives private welcome at Buckingham Palace
Wednesday 19 November - Meets Michael Howard and Charles Kennedy, gives speech on transatlantic alliance and meets UK families of 11 Sept victims before attending royal banquet with Queen
Thursday 20 November - Meets British soldiers who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq, holds meetings with Tony Blair at Downing Street and hosts dinner at US Ambassador's residence
Friday 21 November - Travels to Tony Blair's Sedgefield constituency to meet members of the public before returning to Washington

"Secondly, that I will tell them that their loved ones did not die in vain. The actions we have taken will make the world more secure and the world more peaceful in the long run."

However, the father of the youngest UK soldier killed in Iraq said Mr Bush and Mr Blair did not care about the deaths of British troops.

Andrew Kelly,18, from Tavistock, in Devon, died in a shooting accident near his barracks in the southern city of Basra on 6 May.

His father Robert, from Saltash, in Cornwall, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme he had not been invited to meet Mr Bush, and did not want to meet him.

"For these people to meet families, it is only for their own gain," he said.

"What does George Bush care about our families and my family? He doesn't care."

Tens of thousands of people are expected to protest next Thursday during the president's visit, with organisers hoping to march past the House of Commons.

What does George Bush care about our families and my family? He doesn't care
Robert Kelly, father of UK casualty

However, Scotland Yard has expressed concerns to the Stop The War Coalition about disruption to the capital and security issues.

Lindsey German, the group's convenor, said she was hopeful that agreement can be reached following another meeting with police on Monday.

"We insist on our right to protest democratically and we are confident that we can reach an agreement."

She said if there was no agreement on Monday "we will have to consider our next move".

"We want to get as close as possible to President Bush, who should never have been invited to this country."

'I don't like war'

Mr Bush was unfazed by the prospect of protests during his visit.

If the police are forced to stop demonstrators we will know that we are living in a police state and that democracy is dead .
Val, UK

In interviews with UK journalists, he said: "I can understand people not liking war, if that's what they're there to protest. I don't like war."

He said he was in "weekly" contact with the Tony Blair about the security situation in Iraq.

Mr Bush lavished praise on his "smart, capable, trustworthy friend".

"I admire him as a strong leader. He tells you what he thinks and he does what he says he's going to do.

"And that's about as high a compliment as I can pay a fellow leader," he said.

Mr Bush said Mr Blair made decisions "for the right reasons".

George Bush
I never dreamt when I was living in Midland, Texas, that I would be staying in Buckingham Palace
George Bush

Mr Bush's three-day trip, which begins next Wednesday, will be the first full state visit by a US leader since Woodrow Wilson in 1918.

Mr Bush said he was looking forward to staying with the Queen - even though he joked that he had to rent a morning suit for the formalities.

"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.

Mr Bush may accompany Mr Blair on a trip to the latter's constituency of Sedgefield in the north-east.

President Bush's comments on the planned anti-war protests came after UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said more British troops would be sent to Iraq if needed.

Meanwhile, UK troops raised their profile in the southern city of Basra, following the suicide bomb in Nasiriya on Wednesday which killed more than 20 people.

The BBC's Richard Bilton
"Different responses to a president's invitation"

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14 Nov 03  |  Middle East
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Protests planned for Bush visit
13 Nov 03  |  England
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12 Nov 03  |  Politics
Security tension over Bush visit
11 Nov 03  |  London
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14 Nov 03  |  Wales
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14 Nov 03  |  Middle East

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