LONDON - Anti-war protesters plan to topple and dance on a mock statue of U.S. President George W. Bush in the centre of London as part of demonstrations to "blight" his visit to Britain next month.
Their re-working in Trafalgar Square of the famous humiliation of a Saddam Hussein statue in Baghdad six months' ago will be among running protests including marches and a mock trial of Bush planned around his November 19-21 state visit.
"People are excited about the prospect of opposing George Bush because they feel this visit adds insult to the injury already caused by the Iraq war," said Lindsey German, of Stop the War Coalition, one of various groups planning the events.
"Wherever he is, from the moment he arrives to the moment he goes, there will be protests of one sort or another," she added at a news conference on Thursday.
Bush is coming to Britain at the invitation of Queen Elizabeth and will spend time with his close ally Prime Minister Tony Blair reviewing the problems in postwar Iraq.
Both men have paid heavy political prices for going to war without a United Nations' mandate and then failing to find weapons of mass destruction. Their domestic popularity has fallen, relations with some international allies have cooled, and their names are reviled by anti-war protesters round the world.
The British groups, who brought a million protesters onto the streets of London before the war in February, said at Thursday's news conference they expected hundreds of thousands to participate in Bush protests around the nation.
Some demonstrators were planning to come from the United States and Europe, they added.
A petition has been launched to ask the British government to cancel his visit, and, assuming that will not be heeded, a mock state procession will be staged and a "Goodbye George" concert held the day he leaves.
"This will be a November to remember. I think it will be a bonfire of the vanities of Bush and Blair," said legislator George Galloway, whose radical anti-war rhetoric has seen him suspended from Blair's ruling Labour Party.
Galloway said he hoped images of protests in Britain would help turn the political tide against Bush in the run-up to the 2004 U.S. presidential election.
"Whilst we bear them (Americans) absolutely no ill will, indeed the opposite, we hate their president and think he is one of the world's most dangerous men," Galloway said. "They should take the opportunity they have next November to do the world a favour, as well as themselves, and get rid of him."
At their meeting to announce plans "to blight the U.S. president's visit to Britain", the protest organisers mocked Blair's advisers, whom they said "needed their heads looking at" for accepting a Bush visit at such a politically delicate time for their boss.
With the exception of a blip in 2000 over fuel price protests, Blair's popularity is at his lowest since he came to power in 1997. Critics mock him as Bush's "poodle".
"People can't believe the stupidity of inviting Bush to Britain," said Liz Hutchins, of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
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