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Activists Angry over Planned Rice Visit
Published on Monday, March 27, 2006 by Reuters
Activists Angry over Planned Rice Visit
 

LONDON - Opponents of the Iraq war plan to demonstrate in Blackburn and Liverpool this week against the visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

The Stop the War coalition says it plans a protest in Liverpool on Friday, when Rice is expected to attend a concert, and in Blackburn on Saturday, when she will visit the constituency of Foreign Minister Jack Straw.

Borrowing from the classic Beatles song "A Day in the Life," it said on its Web site it aimed to get "4,000 no's in Blackburn Lancashire."

The coalition is particularly angered that Rice will visit Liverpool because it has been named European City of Culture for 2008.

"This visit comes after the National Museum in Baghdad was looted under the eyes of U.S. soldiers and part of Mesopotamia, the cradle of civilisation, is being destroyed," a coalition spokeswoman said.

"Everywhere she goes during her trip, we will be there to protest."

The visit returns Straw's trip last October to Rice's home state of Alabama which had been part of a State Department strategy to give foreign ministers a taste of life outside Washington.

Straw said at the time: "I have invited Condi to the centre of the world, to Blackburn."

A Foreign Office spokesman said on Monday Straw was looking forward to showing Rice "two great places which reflect the thriving economy and cultural life of modern Britain".

"(Straw) is immensely proud of Blackburn, which he has represented since 1979, and is keen that Liverpool should have this chance to show its transformation as it prepares to be European Capital of Culture."

In Blackburn, a former cotton town 30 miles (50 km) north of Manchester, Rice will visit an industrial site and meet religious leaders including those from the 20 percent Muslim population.

In Liverpool, she and Straw will go to a concert by the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic and visit the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and the Maritime Museum.

The foreign office said the visit would "bring to life ... Liverpool's vibrant, artistic culture and the city's historic trans-atlantic links with the United States".

Rice is due to give one speech during her trip, in Blackburn on Friday.

© Reuters 2006

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