Latvian prime minister vows to bar foreign protesters during Bush's May visit

The Latvian government will try to block foreign protesters from entering the country during U.S. President George W. Bush's visit next month, the prime minister said Wednesday.

Latvia's borders will be tightened and extra scrutiny will be paid to foreign visitors wanting to enter the Baltic country of 2.3 million at the time of Bush's visit May 6-7, Prime Minister Aigars Kalvitis told LNT television.

"Such professional, so to say, protesters and troublemakers will be denied entry to Latvia," Kalvitis said. "We will be able to control the process much better than some larger countries because we have few points of entry."

A special work group set up to deal with security surrounding Bush's visit to Latvia met for the first time Wednesday and planned to meet with a U.S. security delegation next week, the group's chairman, Edgars Rinkevics, said.

Rinkevics said it was still too early to discuss what safety measures the government and law enforcement institutions would take.

"We have to find the right balance between security and the people's legitimate right to express their opinions," Rinkevics said.

Thousands of protesters demonstrated against Bush during a three-country European tour in February.

Bush will arrive in Riga on May 6 for talks with Latvian President Vaira Vike-Freiberga and will take part in a summit with leaders of the Baltic states of Estonia and Lithuania the following day.

Bush will also visit the Netherlands, Russia, and Georgia on his May 6-10 trip, and will take part in Moscow ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe.

TIMOTHY JACOBS, Associated Press Writer

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