Some welcome it, some wish it would go away. Either way, relatives of victims of the 11 September attacks are closely following the Republican National Convention that opens to formally nominate George Bush for president.

Some fear that staging the four-day Republican blow-out in New York increases the risk of attacks on the city. Others bristle at the thought that Republicans are trying to exploit the tragedies the city has endured for political purposes.

Republicans chose New York to host their party for the first time in their 150-year-old history and booked a site just three miles (five kilometres) from Ground Zero.

Bush will accept the nomination for a new term just nine days before the third anniversary of the attacks.

Hold it elsewhere

 

A New York Times poll of 339 relatives of victims found that more than half of them would have preferred the Republican Convention to be held elsewhere.

But like the rest of the population, this small group seemed clearly divided in its views.

A quarter thought Republicans chose New York "to capitalize on September 11" and another quarter believed that, on the contrary, the point was "to show it's safe".

"I don't think either party, Republican or Democratic, should be using 9/11 as any kind of political backdrop, because both have failed. Why 9/11 occurred, it's because there's been so many failures," said Bill Doyle, father of a man killed in the World Trade Centre.

In Doyle's view, Bush "knows that if he gets into too much 9/11, there could be a backlash". When Bush ran an early campaign advertisement with a fleeting image of firemen around a flag-draped coffin, it touched off days of polemics.

"It's a delicate balance," said Charles Wolf, who lost a wife in the Twin Towers. "9/11 was a defining moment in the world history. It's a reality. What are you going to do? Ignore it? You don't ignore the elephant that's in the room!"

It would be inappropriate for Bush to appear with grieving families but "they are not doing that", he said.

As for the risk of another attack during the convention, Wolf said: "We've got an extremely experienced police department. They've handled stuff like this before. I'm confident that our police can handle it. So, welcome!"

Opportunism?

Families of the incident say Iraq
had nothing to do with 9/11

But Monica Gabrielle, who lost a husband on September 11, disagreed. "They put New York through further security risk," she complained.

"However, they are here, so I hope they take this opportunity to address serious questions [that resulted from] 9/11 and the war in Iraq. If you want re-election, Mr Bush, you should use this opportunity to state some clear and meaningful thoughts."

The war on Iraq "had nothing to do with 9/11", she said. "Innocents are being killed, all on false intelligence, and now it's a hotbed of new terrorism. It's a shameful situation."

Doyle, a retired stockbroker and a Republican, said he had not made up his mind who to vote for and would probably do so after televised candidate debates over the next two months.

"Some people protest the war, ask why we did not get (Osama) bin Laden first before we go to Iraq, and it's probably a good question," he said.

Terry Rockefeller, sister of a victim and member of the group "September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows", marched at the front of an anti-Bush demonstration on Sunday "to let the nation and the world know that many of us never wanted this illegal war in the name of our loved ones".

The group said it would march in Manhattan during the convention with a gravestone for "unknown civilian killed in war".