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Last Updated: Wednesday, 12 November, 2003, 10:55 GMT
Straw attacks UK anti-Americanism
George W Bush, Prince Philip, the Queen and Mrs Bush
Mr Bush is likely to get a mixed welcome in the UK
Jack Straw has described criticism of George W Bush's state visit to Britain as "fashionable anti-Americanism".

During a BBC Radio 4 Today interview the foreign secretary questioned how many of the US president's critics had ever protested against Saddam.

President Bush is due in London next week for a visit which is already attracting controversy.

Mr Straw backed the first state visit by a US president since 1918, saying it had been agreed 17 months earlier.

"What I hope will come from this visit... is a mature reflection on our relationship with the US and Europe," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"America is our largest trading partner by far. Huge numbers of jobs on both sides of the Atlantic depend on that relationship.

What bothers me is the fashionable anti-Americanism that is around
Jack Straw
"But above all, what people have to decide is whether it is better in our interests and those of European countries for America to be pushed away from the UK and become more isolated or whether we engage in constructive partnership with the US, respecting them for what they are, which happens to be one of the oldest and largest democracies in the world and a greater force for good than many people are willing to accept."

Followers of fashion?

Mr Straw added that while he accepted people's right to demonstrate, he said they should reflect on whether they had properly criticised Saddam Hussein's regime.

He said questions about why it was a state visit were largely irrelevant as there would still have been protests if Mr Bush had been a guest of the government rather than the royal family.

"What bothers me is the fashionable anti-Americanism that is around," he said.

"People are fully entitled to demonstrate - many more people will be demonstrating about the United States and the action which has had to be taken since 11 September than ever demonstrated against the brutal, vicious, horrific regime of Saddam Hussein."

He added that 300,000 bodies had been found in Iraq buried in mass graves since US-led forces occupied the country.

President Bush and his wife are due to stay at Buckingham Palace during their visit next week and there has been speculation much of the Mall and Whitehall will be closed off along with parts of the City.

Scotland Yard says it is not revealing details of road closures yet for security reasons, but says it will facilitate lawful demonstrations.

The last US president to be afforded a state visit was Woodrow Wilson in 1918.




SEE ALSO:
Security tension over Bush visit
11 Nov 03  |  London
'Exclusion zone' for Bush visit
11 Nov 03  |  London


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