July 12, 2005

U.S. military in Britain lifts London travel ban

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday rescinded
an order banning its personnel from visiting London in the wake
of last week's bomb attacks, after a wave of public scorn and

A spokesman for the U.S. embassy in London confirmed the
order had been withdrawn but did not say why.

The ban on the 12,000 U.S. servicemen and women, mostly
based at RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, some 70
miles northeast of London, had been imposed last Friday, the
day after four bombs exploded in the capital's transport
system, killing at least 52 people.

Earlier on Tuesday, London police chief Ian Blair urged the
U.S. military to reverse the ban.

"I am disappointed but I understand it is their decision,"
he told Sky news before the order was withdrawn.

A spokesman for Prime Minister Tony Blair said they had
expected the decision to be reversed and would not deny that
the government had lobbied the Americans.

"We obviously asked what the situation was. We understood
this was a temporary response."

City Mayor Ken Livingstone had urged Londoners to return to
work and normality after the attacks.

Anthony King, a political analyst at Essex University, told
Reuters the original U.S. decision had been a "gross

"It gives the impression that American airmen and America
in general is rather feeble. I think from a public relations
point of view it was a serious mistake."

Londoners and tourists visiting a makeshift shrine outside
King's Cross station had also said they were disappointed with
the American ban.

Ann Redmon, an Anglo-American working in London, was one of

"It is pretty cowardly, given the support Britain has given
them in Iraq," she told Reuters while observing the many
messages of goodwill left at the station.

In an editorial, the Daily Mail newspaper slammed the
military ban as "timid" coming after President Bush had pledged
Britons could count on America.

"It was business as usual in brave and resilient London
yesterday -- though not if you were a member of the world's
most powerful military machine," the newspaper said.

(Additional reporting by Karin Strohecker, Michael Holden
and Mike Peacock)