18 November 2003 Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, launched a stinging attack on President George Bush last night, denouncing him as the "greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen".
His provocatively timed comments, on the eve of Mr Bush's arrival in London tonight, threaten to create severe embarrassment for the Prime Minister. They also come with talks under way on whether to re-admit Mr Livingstone to the Labour Party before his five-year exile ends. Although he made his many differences with the Government on a range of issues clear, he reserved his strongest comments for the American President in an interview with The Ecologist magazine.
The President's three-night trip, which will culminate on Friday with a visit to the Prime Minister's Sedgefield constituency, has sparked a flood of protests from those opposed to his foreign policy. But Mr Livingstone's outburst makes him one of the most high-profile and explicit of his critics.
Mr Livingstone recalled a visit at Easter to California, where he was denounced for an attack he had made on what he called "the most corrupt and racist American administration in over 80 years". He said: "Some US journalist came up to me and said: 'How can you say this about President Bush?' Well, I think what I said then was quite mild. I actually think that Bush is the greatest threat to life on this planet that we've most probably ever seen. The policies he is initiating will doom us to extinction."
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