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Thursday, August 5, 1999 Published at 08:48 GMT 09:48 UK

UK Politics

A beach of their own for Blairs

Tony Blair and family have returned to Tuscany this year

Local residents near the San Rossore beach in Tuscany have reacted furiously to a five-mile exclusion zone around the villa where Tony Blair will spend his holiday.

The UK prime minister and his family plan to spend part of their summer holiday at the luxury house on the former royal estate.

The villa, near Pisa, is owned by Tuscany's regional president, Vannino Chiti, but access to the surrounding beachfront is usually open.

Mr Chiti normally allows people to sail boats in the water by the beach and come onshore, provided they stick to the edge of the beach.

But locals and tourists alike have been warned they will not be allowed within five miles of the villa while the Blairs are in residence and access to the water will also be restricted.

The beach and the rest of the 60,000-acre estate is expected to remain closed to the public from Thursday to 14 August.

One woman who visits the region each summer reacted angrily to the move.

"To do this just because Tony Blair is coming is an obscenity and a disgrace," Marcella Monicelli told a local newspaper.

"May Tony Blair come. But I don't see why he can't mix with the rest of us."

Mrs Monicelli said the security measure meant her handicapped son would now be unable to swim in the sea during their summer break.

La Nazione also condemned the move itself. "Bathers and fishermen are being sacrificed in the name of Tony Blair," it said.

Downing Street has refused to comment on the prime minister's holiday plans or the exclusion zone, except to say no public beach had been closed.

The move follows a threat by protesters opposed to Nato's bombing of Kosovo to hold demonstrations during Mr Blair's holiday.

There have also been reports of Britons living in Tuscany planning to protest about the government's plans to ban fox-hunting.

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