by Martin Bright / The Observer –
LONDON (November 16, 2003) — Home Secretary David Blunkett has refused to grant diplomatic immunity to armed American special agents and snipers travelling to Britain as part of President Bush’s entourage this week. In the case of the accidental shooting of a protester, the Americans in Bush’s protection squad will face justice in a British court as would any other visitor, the Home Office has confirmed.
The issue of immunity is one of a series of extraordinary US demands turned down by Ministers and Downing Street during preparations for the Bush visit. These included the closure of the Tube network, the use of US air force planes and helicopters and the shipping in of battlefield weaponry to use against rioters.
In return, the British authorities agreed to numerous concessions, including the creation of a ‘sterile zone’ around the President with a series of road closures in central London and a security cordon keeping the public away from his cavalcade.
Bush’s Popularity: Down the Tubes
The White House initially demanded the closure of all Tube lines under parts of London to be visited during the trip. But British officials dismissed the idea that a suicide bomber could kill the President by blowing up a Tube train. Ministers are also believed to have dismissed suggestions that a ‘sterile zone’ around the President should be policed entirely by American special agents and military.
Demands for the US air force to patrol above London with fighter aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters have also been turned down.
The President’s protection force will be armed — as Tony Blair’s is when he travels abroad — and around 250 secret service agents will fly in with Bush, but operational control will remain with the Metropolitan Police.
The Presidential Tank: A ‘Peacekeeping’ Tool
The Americans had also wanted to travel with a piece of military hardware called a ‘mini-gun’, which usually forms part of the mobile armory in the presidential cavalcade. It is fired from a tank and can kill dozens of people. One manufacturer’s description reads: “Due to the small calibre of the round, the mini-gun can be used practically anywhere. This is especially helpful during peacekeeping deployments.”
Ministers have made clear to Washington that the firepower of the mini-gun will not be available during the state visit to Britain. In return, the Government has agreed to close off much of Whitehall during the visit — the usual practice in Britain is to use police outriders to close roads as the cavalcade passes to cause minimal disruption to traffic.
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Negotiations between here and the US have been perfectly amicable. If there have been requests, they have not posed any problems.”
An internal memo sent to Cabinet Office staff and leaked to the press this weekend urged staff to work from home if at possible during the presidential visit. Serious disruption would be caused by ‘the President Bush vehicle entourage requesting cleared secured vehicle routes around London and the security cordons creating a sterile zone around him’.
Meanwhile, negotiations are continuing between police and demonstrators about the route of the march. Representatives of the Stop the War Coalition will meet police at Scotland Yard tomorrow to discuss whether protesters will be able to march through Parliament Square and Whitehall. Spokesman Andrew Burgin said he hoped for ‘a good old-fashioned British compromise’.
Using Force to Promote Democracy
The Herald Sun
LONDON (November 19, 2003) — DURING a major foreign policy address in London tomorrow, US President George W Bush will outline the importance of using force to promote democracy when diplomacy fails to produce results.
“History has shown that there are times when countries must use force to defend the peace and to defend values,” said a senior US official, who previewed the speech to reporters on Mr Bush’s flight from Washington. “And he will say that we have to recognize that times will come when the use of force is necessary.”
The official said Mr Bush would deliver a major foreign policy speech at Banqueting House in London in which he would talk about the three pillars for peace and security.
Those pillars were “effective multilateralism,” the necessity at times to “use force to defend the peace and to defend values,” and “the spread of democratic values throughout the world”, the official said.
“He will make a point — as he has in recent speeches — that the Middle East is, of course, no exception in this regard, that it is a kind of unfortunate thing that some believe the people of the Middle East are, people who are adherents of Islam, somehow are either not ready for or do not seek democratic development,” the official said.
“That’s something that he simply does not believe, and he’ll challenge great democracies to recognise the importance of those values for security and for prosperity.”
Mr Bush would fold “fighting disease and poverty” into the third pillar, the official added. “The president will begin and end the speech with a recognition of how much Britain and the United States share in our common heritage, recognizing that many of the political ideals, political institutions, political values that the United States was both founded on and continues to hold dear really come from England,” the official continued. “And he’ll acknowledge that tremendous linkage of values and principles that transcends decades, transcends centuries, certainly transcends particular leaders.”