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Last Updated: Sunday, 16 November, 2003, 14:59 GMT
Bush shrugs off UK Iraq protests
President Bush meets interviewer Sir David Frost
The interview was recorded in America
US President George W Bush has said protests planned during his visit to the UK this week do not worry him.

He told BBC One's Breakfast with Frost programme that protesters were "lucky" to live in a country "where people are free to say anything".

He talked of his "partner" Tony Blair, who like himself "would not be shaken" as they battled to rebuild Iraq.

Mr Blair has defended Mr Bush's controversial state visit to Britain as a chance to reaffirm shared values.


He told the News of the World the visit was an ideal time to celebrate freedom, security and a "better, more prosperous and peaceful future" for Iraq.

Anti-war campaigners have been fiercely critical of next week's visit by the US president, as violence in Iraq continues.

Aren't you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind?
US President George Bush

In his interview with Sir David recorded ahead of his visit, President Bush said he had "learned the lessons of 11 September", but that war was not his "first choice".

"Terrorists declared war on the United States of America and war on people that love freedom, and I intend to lead our nation, along with others, like our close friends in Great Britain to win this war on terror."

When asked by Sir David if he believed that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction that could be unleashed in 45 minutes, Mr Bush would not answer but replied: "I believed he was a dangerous man."

"I believed a lot of things, but I know he was a dangerous man, and I know that for the sake of security he needed to be dealt with."

Speaking of Mr Blair, he said he valued the UK prime minister's advice and believed that he could trust him.

"The good news about having a partner like Tony Blair is he won't be shaken, you see, and neither will I. And neither will [Spanish Prime Minister] Jose Maria Aznar."

He praised the "strong statement" given by Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi after the death of 18 Italians died in a suicide bomb attack in Nasiriya, Iraq, last week.

In an ICM poll commissioned for BBC One's Politics Show, 57% of respondents felt the relationship between Mr Blair and Mr Bush was too close, while 41% thought it was "about right".


Mr Bush told Sir David he was looking forward to coming to London - which he had visited a "couple of times" before.

He was "honoured" to be staying in Buckingham Palace and described the Queen's official residence as having "tremendous mystique".

And he appeared unperturbed about the expected protests due to accompany his visits by those against US involvement in Iraq.

"Aren't you lucky to be in a country that encourages people to speak their mind?" he said.

"I value going to a country where people are free to say anything they want to say."

Glenda Jackson MP, who opposed the war, told BBC One's Politics Show the visit was the "Dumb and Dumber show" .

While she said Britain was "America's closest ally for a variety of reasons," she did not agree that the government "should demonstrate that closeness by - as it seems to me - we are at the moment being permanently on our knees."

The BBC's Mike Wooldridge
"He [President Bush] acknowledged that America's September 11 wake-up call drives him"

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