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Last Updated: Friday, 31 March 2006, 00:12 GMT 01:12 UK
Condoleezza arrives in Liverpool
Protests ahead of Ms Rice's visit
Protesters had gathered before Condoleezza Rice arrived in the UK
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has arrived in Liverpool at the start of a two-day trip to the north-west of England.

Ms Rice was met at John Lennon Airport by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and city dignitaries on Thursday evening, before heading into the city centre.

Earlier a planned visit to a mosque in Mr Straw's Blackburn constituency was scrapped because of fears of protests.

The trip is to repay a visit Mr Straw made to Ms Rice's hometown last year.

During the tour, which begins properly on Friday, Ms Rice will attend a gala concert at the Liverpool Philharmonic, to celebrate the city's status as European Capital of Culture 2008, and visit a school in Blackburn.

In Liverpool, a few anti-war protesters chanted slogans outside her Hope Street hotel as she arrived on Thursday night.

One protester - a spokeswoman for Stop the War, Lindsey German - criticised Ms Rice's visit.

"We think, and the majority of British people think, that the invasion and occupation of Iraq was wrong, and it is disgusting that a woman who was so central to it should be wined and dined and feted in this way, at the taxpayers' expense."

Mosque demo

Earlier, mosque leaders in Blackburn decided to withdraw their invitation for Ms Rice to visit them on Saturday, amid warnings of protests from a group of Muslims which included members of the Stop the War Coalition.

Masjide Al-Hidayah mosque spokesman Ibrahim Masters said: "The visit wasn't cancelled because we don't like Condoleezza Rice.

"What these people had threatened to do was invade the mosque during dawn prayers.

"It would have compromised the safety of the visiting dignitaries."

Condoleezza Rice
Ms Rice will be hosted by Foreign Secretary Jack Straw
Ms Rice's visit to meet staff at the 1,200-pupil Pleckgate High School in Blackburn is set go ahead on Friday, despite up to 50 people protesting outside the school on Thursday.

Mr Straw said: "I'm disappointed that it is not possible for Secretary Rice to visit this mosque but she is going to see plenty else of Blackburn, and will be able to meet many members of the Asian community in town."

Stop the War plans rallies in Blackburn on Saturday morning, and in Liverpool before the concert on Friday.

Ms Rice's attendance at the concert has already caused controversy with poet Roger McGough refusing to compere the event.

He said he originally accepted the role without realising the depth of feeling against the visit among anti-war protesters.

Protests stop Rice's mosque visit
30 Mar 06 |  Lancashire
Profile: Condoleezza Rice
30 Mar 06 |  Americas
Poet boycotts Condoleezza concert
24 Mar 06 |  Merseyside
Straw to repay Rice hospitality
25 Feb 06 |  Lancashire

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