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imperialism & war


Reassure me Ian didn't die in vain, Mr Bush. Come up with the proof of WMD
THE widow of a British soldier killed in Iraq called yesterday for George Bush to tell her he did not die in vain - by proving Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

Lianne Seymour, whose 28-year-old husband Ian was one of eight Marines killed when their US helicopter crashed, is among relatives invited to meet Mr Bush on his state visit next week.

The president will tell them the men died for a "noble cause". But some relatives slammed the plan as a public relations exercise.

Lianne, 27, of Poole, Dorset, who has a three-year-old son Beck, said: "If he wants to reassure me Ian did not die in vain he'll come up with the proof of weapons of mass destruction. I don't want him to say, 'Yes, it was worth it' because anyone can say that. I want him to mean it and back it up."

Lance Bombadier Llywelyn Evans, 24, died in the same accident as Ian. His father Gordon, of Llandudno, Caernarfonshire, later asked Tony Blair to stay away from the national memorial service for the dead.

He and wife Theresa have not been invited to meet Mr Bush but he said he wanted the president to explain to relatives why he went to war.

Reg Keys said he was prepared to "walk from Wales to London" to tell Mr Bush he is responsible for the death of his son Thomas, 20, one of six Royal Military Police shot dead in Basra in June.

He said: "I do not see a noble cause. I looked at my son's bullet riddled body and that did not seem very noble to me."

But Mr Keys, 51, of Bala, Gwynedd, added: "I don't think a meeting will happen - people will be handpicked."

Rob Kelly, 54, of Saltash, Cornwall, whose 18-year-old Paratrooper son Andrew was the youngest soldier killed in Iraq, said: "This is really a public relations exercise for President Bush. I don't believe he really cares, just as I don't believe Tony Blair really cares." He believes he was excluded from the meeting because he is a fierce critic of the war.

But the widow of the first British soldier killed backed the meeting.

Samantha Roberts, whose husband Sgt Steven Roberts, 33, of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, was shot trying to quell a riot, said: "It is ironic that Mr Bush is prepared to see the relatives but Mr Blair hasn't invited anybody."

But Mrs Roberts, of Bradford, West Yorks, said she would still have some hard questions for the president if they met. "I would ask if it was an absolute necessity. I would also ask him to consider not to pull troops out. We need them there for at least six months."

Former MP Tony Benn led Labour left-wingers urging Mr Bush to meet them to discuss the war. He said it could change the "whole tone" of the visit. "We are not here to wreck it, we are here to put a point of view."

Organisers of a huge protest march said they hoped to reach agreement with police on the route. Stop the War Coalition wants to march past the Commons.

One of the biggest ever security operations will protect Mr Bush. Scotland Yard plan an estimated 4million blitz involving all its armed units and up to 5,000 officers. Head Sir John Stevens said it would be "unprecedented".

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