Security beefed up for Obama UK visit
Updated: 2011-05-24 07:59
By Zhang Chunyan (China Daily)
LONDON - Security for US President Barack Obama's first state visit to the United Kingdom has been beefed up following Osama bin Laden's death.
"Though bin Laden is dead, al-Qaida is not. The terrorists almost certainly will attempt to avenge him and we must, and will, remain vigilant and resolute," said CIA Director Leon Panetta.
British police carried out a controlled explosion to destroy a suspicious bag in a central London street last week, although it later turned out to be harmless.
A central London avenue near Buckingham Palace was also closed in a security alert last week.
During the two-day visit to London, Obama and his wife Michelle will travel in an armored limousine and helicopters and will be trailed at all times by hundreds of US secret service staff.
Called "The Beast", the limo can be turned into a panic room and resist bullets, chemical weapons and even a missile strike. It also comes with a teargas cannon, night-vision camera and oxygen tanks.
The US president's White House medical unit will be on standby, as well as a supply of his AB-type blood for emergency transfusions.
Obama's visit comes as he is waging three wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.
There will be anti-war protests on Tuesday in London, called by Stop the War, the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Justice for Bahrain.
In just two years, the Obama administration has attacked six countries, two more than George W. Bush, Stop the War said, adding that Obama is spending more on the US military than any president in history.
According to British newspapers, a new joint security body is to be unveiled by the UK and the US during Obama's visit.
The National Security Strategy Board, which is expected to meet several times a year, will be chaired by British National Security Adviser Peter Ricketts and his US counterpart Tom Donilon.
"The new board will allow us to look ahead and develop a shared view of emerging challenges, how we should deal with them and how our current policy can adapt to longer-term developments," an adviser to British Prime Minister David Cameron told The Times.
Details of the initiative are due to be announced on Tuesday.
Analysts noted that the UK's special relationship with the US will be strengthened through the joint security board.
In advance of the trip, officials placed unprecedented emphasis on the bond between the US and the UK.
The two countries, "of course, enjoy a special relationship", said Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser to Obama.
"There's no closer ally for the US in the world than the UK. We are in absolute alignment with the British on a range of core national security interests and of course deeply share a set of values that have tied us together for many decades," Rhodes added.
The Obamas will attend a banquet at Buckingham Palace on Tuesday night and a barbecue at Downing Street on Wednesday.
The president will also address both houses of the UK parliament at Westminster Hall.
Obama's European trip, which starts in Ireland on Monday, will continue on to Deauville, France, on Thursday for the G8 summit.
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