Rice to see ex-Beatle's school, orchestra and soccer ground on England visit

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will visit northwestern England with British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw later this week, a British government official said Monday.

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Rice also will use her visit to Europe to travel to Berlin and Paris for meetings on Iran and other issues.

"Secretary Rice's trip to Berlin and Paris will provide an opportunity for her to continue her dialogue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Jacques Chirac and other top officials," McCormack told reporters at the State Department on Monday.

In England on Friday and Saturday, Rice will tour the city of Liverpool and the town of Blackburn  which Straw has represented in Britain's Parliament since 1979 in a visit planned to reciprocate for a trip that Straw made to Rice's hometown in Alabama last year.

Straw believes that both places "reflect the thriving economy and cultural life of modern Britain," said a British foreign office spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity.

Anti-war protesters, however, are ready to greet Rice with demonstrations about the 2003 Iraq invasion. Officials at the Stop the War Coalition have called for members to travel from across Britain to protest.

Outlining brief details of the visit schedule, the foreign office spokesman said Rice and Straw are due to visit "a school and major industrial site" in Blackburn.

Both diplomats are scheduled to speak on foreign policy at the town's Ewood Park soccer ground, home of Blackburn Rovers.

In Liverpool, they will tour the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts based at former Beatle Paul McCartney's old school and also see the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra.

Last October, Rice hosted Straw in Birmingham, Alabama, when they attended a memorial for the four black girls killed in an infamous 1963 church bombing and a University of Alabama-University of Tennessee football game, reports AP.


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