- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 15, 2003

LONDON — Queen Elizabeth II has rejected a request from President Bush’s security advisers to bolster Buckingham Palace’s structural defenses against a terrorist attack during his state visit to Britain this week.

Senior royal officials say the queen was not willing to countenance “bomb and airborne assault proofing” that would have involved substantial building work at her London home.

The Americans fear al Qaeda terrorists are planning an attack when the president and his wife, Laura, stay for three nights in the ground-floor Belgian Suite at the palace.

“They [the Americans] wanted blast- and bullet-proofed windows and curtains and some strengthening to the walls of the president’s suite and other rooms at the palace where he would be spending time. The president’s security men seem obsessed with the idea of an airborne attack on the palace,” a royal official said.

“Her majesty takes the view that no amount of strengthening of windows and walls could protect the president in such an eventuality and that the work would cause disruption and involve discarding original fixtures and fittings.”

The queen has also limited the number of American security staff who will be accommodated at the palace.

“Her majesty’s view throughout was that since there are going to be 5,000 British police officers involved in the security operation for the president, it’s not unreasonable to expect her guests to have some faith in their abilities.”

Britain’s security services have been placed on a higher level of alert for Mr. Bush’s visit. The “severe general” alert, the second highest, follows information about plots by al Qaeda supporters from North Africa.

The Sunday Telegraph also learned that two suspected al Qaeda terrorists were stopped from entering Britain last week because it was feared they were plotting an assassination attempt on the president, using antiwar protests as a cover.

A senior intelligence official said: “We are aware of an al Qaeda plot and we know of at least two individuals who have been stopped from coming into the country during the last week. Another person is known to be in the country, but the situation is under control.”

The queen will officially welcome the president in a unique ceremony on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday morning.

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