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London mosque thwarts Bush party

On the eve of the US president's controversial state visit to the UK, George Bush faces fresh embarrassment after being forced to cancel a party near London's main mosque.

Last Modified: 17 Nov 2003 18:33 GMT
The US president faces a mixed welcome in the British capital

On the eve of the US president's controversial state visit to the UK, George Bush faces fresh embarrassment after being forced to cancel a party near London's main mosque.

Aljazeera.net has learned that Bush planned to throw a party for US embassy staff and guests at a venue near London Central Mosque in Regent's Park, one of the UK's largest and most prominent mosques.

But members of the mosque and other Islamic groups complained to the police and London authorities that they did not want Bush near the mosque during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Massud Shadjareh, chair of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) based in London, told Aljazeera.net Muslims were opposed to the likely disruption.

"We were told that Bush had planned to fly over in a helicopter to the party venue, which is very near the mosque. During the last ten days of Ramadan, the mosque will be full of worshippers offering special prayers. 

"We were unwilling to have Bush in the area as this would have lead to a massive security operation and severe disruption to those who wanted to come to the mosque."

Peace activists will be out in force

Aljazeera.net contacted the White House press office, but it was unwilling to comment on the visit for security reasons.

Metropolitan police headquarters, Scotland Yard, in London, was also unwilling to comment. A  police spokesperson told Aljazeera.net: ''We have nothing to do with Bush's visit and we can't comment on his plans for operational purposes.''

Security

The Metropolitan police has planned a massive security operation in London with 14,000 police officers on duty during the four-day state visit.

Bush will be flying into the UK with about 750 armed CIA staff and personal body guards. 

The Stop the War Coalition estimates there will be more than 100,000 people demonstrating in Trafalgar Square against the state visit and American-led invasion of Iraq later in the week.

Profiling

Civil rights groups, including Muslim organisations, have been raising their concerns at the number of armed CIA staff flying into the capital for the president's visit.

The Islamic Human Rights Commission held talks with David Verness, head of the anti-terrorism unit at the Metropolitan police. The talks focused on, among other things, the profiling of Muslim men post 9/11.

"The meeting was constructive. Verness read our reports focusing on this issue, and our concerns about the policing of Bush's visit and the potential recipe for disaster when you have armed cowboys from Dallas policing a demonstration in London," said Shadjareh.

Members of the IHRC, Muslim lawyers and legal professionals will be monitoring the policing of the demonstrations, and will be reporting their findings back to the police.

Source:
Aljazeera
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