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Monday, 10 December, 2001, 20:01 GMT
Clinton effigy burned before speech
Bill Clinton
Bill Clinton arrived in Scotland on Monday
Pro-Palestinian protesters have burned an effigy of Bill Clinton outside a hotel where the former US president was speaking at a controversial fundraising event.

Dozens of protesters turned up outside the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow before Mr Clinton addressed more than 750 people at a Jewish charity function on Monday night.

They condemned efforts to raise cash for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and said the group contributed to problems in the Middle East.

These claims were rejected by the JNF, which said the event aimed to raise cash for agricultural projects.

Burning effigy
Protesters burned an effigy of Mr Clinton
This was Mr Clinton's second visit to Scotland this year. In May he made a surprise visit to St Andrews for a round of golf at the world-famous Old Course during the final leg of a European tour.

On Monday he played another round of golf at Turnberry, in Ayrshire, before heading on to the Glasgow event.

He arrived at the hotel still wearing casual golfing clothes and told reporters: "It's lovely. I'm glad to be back.

"I have had a wonderful time - it's a beautiful day. It's a little warmer than I thought it would be."

Mr Clinton said he would talk "a little about current events" during his speech at the 125-a-head dinner.

'Travel is safe'

He said: "I am quite confident that we are going to prevail in this conflict in Afghanistan.

"I think our defences will get better at home. I think we have to build a world where we have fewer terrorists and more partners, and that means we have work to do after this conflict is over that is every bit as important as what we are doing now."

The former US president said he had never given any thought to cancelling his trip to Scotland in the current climate.

They (JNF) are engaged in exercises that are extremely undermining to any possibility of a peace process

Bill Speirs, STUC
He said: "I think air travel is safe, and I think the purpose of terror is to make people change their lives, to make us afraid of today, afraid of tomorrow, afraid of each other - and we should not be."

He also declined to comment on the protests ahead of his speech in Glasgow.

He added: "I can't comment on the protests because I don't know what they are upset about."

Mr Clinton's speech was part of an initiative to help the JNF raise up to 1m.

The charity began life long before the establishment of Israel, with the goal of buying land for Jewish settlers in Palestine.

'Undermining peace process'

It now focuses on the building of reservoirs and creation of green space.

Many prominent members of Scotland's Jewish community turned out at the event.

But some critics said Mr Clinton was supporting a group which was undermining the peace process in the Middle East.

Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) General Secretary Bill Speirs said that although the JNF did support "agricultural projects" it remained involved in questionable activities.

He said: "The difficulty is that they do much more than that and they are engaged in exercises that are extremely undermining to any possibility of a peace process."

Abbie Ben Ari
Abbie Ben Ari: "Two sides together"
He said the JNF had built roads to connect Jewish settlements in disputed territories around Israel and said the group's website refers to "strong links" with Israeli defence forces.

These allegations were denied by JNF representative Abbie Ben Ari who said that Mr Clinton would not have risked his reputation to address a "racist organisation".

Referring to the Middle East conflict, he said: "Mr Clinton has given literally thousands upon thousands of hours of trying to bring the two sides together."

He said that if the former US president thought the JNF was "practising apartheid" then he would not have agreed to the engagement.

Marital infidelities

The Scottish Executive's decision to send Minister for Parliament Patricia Ferguson to the charity gala has also been condemned.

Glasgow Kelvin MP George Galloway said it was "a disgrace that the executive has decided to be officially represented".

Event organisers rejected this and said the dinner was simply a chance to listen to one of the most fascinating characters in the world.

One person who was not in the audience on Monday night was Scotland's First Minister Jack McConnell.

It was reported that he withdrew from the engagement amid fears that sections of the media would choose to focus on his and Mr Clinton's past marital infidelities.

BBC Scotland's Kit Fraser
"Overall it's hoped that Mr Clinton's visit will raise 1m"
See also:

28 May 01 | Scotland
Guide helps Clinton play a round
24 May 01 | Northern Ireland
NI honours for Clinton
21 May 01 | Americas
Whatever happened to Bill Clinton?
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