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Rice: Thousands of errors in Iraq

U.S. secretary of state visits England amid anti-war protests


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BLACKBURN, England (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has defended her government's war in Iraq, despite having made "thousands of errors," as she faced a series of protests during a tour of northwest England.

"I believe strongly it was the right strategic decision," Rice said Friday.

"I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them, I'm sure," she said in a speech at Blackburn's Chatham House -- a center for independent research on global issues.

"I am quite certain there are going to be dissertations written about the mistakes of the Bush administration," she said.

"But when you look back in history what will be judged on is" whether the "right strategic decision" was made.

Her comments came on the first full day of a two-day tour of northwest England. Rice was accompanied by her UK counterpart, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, who is a local member of Parliament.

Straw also spoke at Chatham House, describing the need for global unity.

Although foreign policy is still about national interests, "we also recognize we must advance those interests by developing a community of nations in which people can share in common values," he said.

"An international society which works is the best guarantee of our own security and prosperity."

Earlier on Friday, anti-war demonstrations led to the cancellation of a planned visit by Rice and Straw to a mosque.

About 20 percent of Blackburn's population is Muslim, and Rice had been invited to visit the mosque.

That invitation was withdrawn, however, amid reports that widespread protests about U.S. policy towards Muslims and the war in Iraq were planned. Rice is still scheduled to meet Saturday with Muslim leaders in Blackburn and the town's mayor, Ugandan immigrant Yusuf Jan-Virmani.

During a visit later to Sir Paul McCartney's Liverpool Institute of the Performing Arts, Rice was booed and jeered by a small number of students wearing T-shirts with the slogan "No Torture, No Compromise."

One of the students, Jon Netton, told the Press Association it was a "disgrace" that Rice had been invited to the academy when the former Beatle was a leading anti-war campaigner.

"We wish she hadn't been invited here. Why should we be seen to condone the actions of this woman?" he said.

Earlier on Friday, Rice and Straw visited a high school in Blackburn where about 150 protesters chanted anti-war slogans and waved banners.

Some shouted, "Condoleezza Rice, go home," and "Hey, hey Condi Rice, how many kids did you kill today?"

Jaabbar Khan, a 16-year-old student, said about 50 of his classmates skipped classes to join the demonstration.

"The majority of the Muslim community are opposed to the war and her visit," said Salim Amed, 38, a call center worker from Blackburn, the UK's Press Association reported.

'Strong views'

Rice then traveled to Ewood Park, home of the Blackburn Rovers soccer club, where she was presented with a Rovers team shirt with the number "10" and the name "Rice" printed on the back.

Earlier in the day, Rice was accompanied by Straw to a British aerospace factory near Preston.

Asked by reporters for her reaction to the demonstrations, Rice said she had seen opposition to Iraq war in cities she had visited in the United States.

"So, I'm not surprised. People have strong views," she said. "People always have a right to protest. That is what democracy is all about."

She added that people with differing views "should not keep them bottled up."

Rice also expressed sympathy for the victims of the Bahrain boat tragedy and the earthquake in Iran. (Full story)

The United States has been in contact with the Bahrain government and "is lending whatever assistance we can," the secretary of state said.

Straw said the UK had sent a rapid deployment unit to the region.

Rice's two-day tour of Blackburn and Liverpool is a repayment for Straw's visit to her hometown last year.

The secretary of state, who arrived at Liverpool's John Lennon Airport late Thursday, returned to that city Friday evening to attend a concert and visit a maritime museum steeped in the history of trade and travel between the two countries.

A Beatles fan, Rice also will have an opportunity to indulge in her passion for the band in its home city. (Full story)

Rice came to England from Berlin, where she met with ministers representing the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council -- the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China, for talks on the next steps to tighten the diplomatic noose around Iran following Wednesday's passage by the Security Council of a presidential statement. (Full story)

She also made a brief stop in Paris to meet with French President Jacques Chirac.

Her visit to Liverpool and Blackburn has been billed as an opportunity for Rice and Straw to demonstrate how U.S. foreign policy directly affects British citizens.

It follows a visit by Straw to Rice's home state of Alabama in October, where she gave him a high-profile taste of life in the Deep South.

The trip is full of photo opportunities meant to highlight the historic links between the United States and Britain.

Straw's Blackburn and the southern United States where Rice grew up share historic ties to the cotton industry.

During the industrial revolution, American cotton grown in the Deep South was imported through Liverpool to Blackburn, where it was woven into cloth.

CNN's Elise Labott and European Political Editor Robin Oakley contributed to this report.

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