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Attacks on British interests kill 27 in Istanbul

LONDON - With rescue workers picking through the rubble of two British targets bombed in Turkey and more than 100,000 war protesters marching through London's streets, President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair said yesterday that they would not be shaken by terror attacks and vowed to remain in Iraq until democracy takes root.

The twin bombings in Istanbul cast a pall over the second full day of Bush's state visit and dominated talks between the two leaders. At a joint news conference only a few hours after the blasts, Blair, barely controlling his anger, insisted that the bombings - the first direct terror attacks on British interests - would not shake him from aggressively pursuing terrorists.

"If they think that when they go and kill people by these terrorist attacks they are going to somehow weaken us or make us think 'Well, let's shuffle to the back of the queue and hide away from this,' they are wrong," Blair said. "That is not the tradition of my country, and it is not the tradition of the British people or the American people."

"The terrorists hope to intimidate, they hope to demoralize, they particularly want to intimidate and demoralize free nations," Bush said. "They are not going to succeed. Great Britain, America and other free nations are united today in our grief, and united in our determination to fight and defeat this evil wherever it is found."

The timing of the bombings served to bolster the leaders' frequent warnings that their countries are at war with terrorists and to dramatize the difficulty of the fight, coming after full-fledged wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were said to have been waged to eradicate terrorism. Blair and Bush used the Istanbul bombings, which killed at least 27 people and injured more than 400, to highlight the importance of success in Iraq.

Blair argued that al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations recruit and foment anger by dividing Arabs from the Western world and by separating Muslims from Christians. Through propaganda, Blair said, the terrorists make the case that the United States and Britain are in Iraq to suppress Muslims and steal their oil.

"They know, therefore, that if we manage to get Iraq on its feet as a stable, prosperous, democratic country, the blow we strike is not just one for the Iraqi people, it is the end of that propaganda, and that is why they are fighting us," the prime minister said. "That is why our response has got to be to say to them as clearly as we possibly can, 'You are not going to defeat us because our will to defend what we believe in is actually in the end stronger, better, more determined than your will to inflict carnage on innocent people.'"

Bush's trip was supposed to be celebratory and high on ceremony, but it has been largely awkward. He was greeted by Queen Elizabeth II on Wednesday morning in a lavish ceremony that Britons could see only on television, as there was a ban on the customary crowds at the gates of Buckingham Palace for such pageantry because of security concerns. Bush has traveled no more than five minutes from Buckingham Palace, where he is staying as guest of the queen, and his motorcade has moved through streets almost completely emptied by police.

Protests have been held throughout Bush's visit, including a march by an estimated 110,000 people yesterday that ended with a papier-mache statue of the president being toppled at Trafalgar Square.

And then there were yesterday's terror attacks. Bush was at a wreath-laying ceremony at the Tomb of the Unknown Warrior at Westminster Abbey when the bombings hit the British Consulate and the British international bank HSBC in Istanbul. Britain's consul general, Roger Short, was among those killed, and rescue workers were still searching for victims last night.

Blair, who has been politically damaged by his alignment with Bush, had made his case for going to war largely by warning his country that it was only a matter of time before Britain was hit with a terrorist attack.

At the news conference yesterday, Blair dismissed suggestions that the bombings against British interests were the result of his alignment with Bush and that the escalation of terrorist attacks around the world is a product of the war in Iraq.

"What has caused the terrorist attack today in Turkey is not the president of the United States," Blair said. "It's not the alliance between America and Britain. What is responsible for that terrorist attack is terrorism, are the terrorists."

Bush and his wife, Laura, also met yesterday with four families of British servicemen killed in the war with Iraq.

"These brave men died for the security of this country and in the cause of human freedom," Bush said afterward. "Our nations honor their sacrifice. I pray for the comfort of the families."

"The families were very strong," Laura Bush said. "They comforted us. We went, of course, to try to comfort them, but they really ended up comforting us. Many of them said, 'Stay the course. Keep going.'"

Several families of lost servicemen who were not invited, though, went on Britain's news channels to criticize Bush and Blair and their decision to go to war in Iraq.

And although Bush and Blair again stood shoulder-to-shoulder as they promised to continue their fight on terrorism, they were unable to reach agreement on Blair's request for Bush to repeal U.S. steel tariffs or on the detention of nine British citizens at a U.S. military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Last night, the president held a reciprocal dinner for the queen and her husband, Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, at the residence of William S. Farish, the U.S. ambassador to Britain.

Among the invited guests were Prince Charles; his brother, Prince Andrew; actor Sir Michael Caine; television interviewer Sir David Frost; Broadway composer Lord Andrew Lloyd Webber; and Walter E. Massey, the president of Morehouse College in Atlanta.

Bush is scheduled to leave London today after a formal farewell to the queen. He is expected to visit Blair's parliamentary district of Sedgefield in northeast England, where he will have lunch in a local pub, the Dun Cow Inn, before flying back to Washington.

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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