- Associated Press - Thursday, April 28, 2011

LONDON (AP) - Practice makes perfect: Kate Middleton and her bridesmaids, together with best man Prince Harry, rehearsed one more time at Westminster Abbey on Thursday, the eve of the most anticipated royal wedding in decades.

But politics intruded on Friday’s royal nuptials, with Britain withdrawing its invitation to Syria’s ambassador to condemn the violent crackdown on protesters there that has left hundreds dead.

The rehearsal _ the second in as many days _ came as Middleton and Prince William released a message in their wedding program, saying they were deeply touched by the outpouring of affection toward them.

“We are both so delighted that you are able to join us in celebrating what we hope will be one of the happiest days of our lives,” they wrote. “The affection shown to us by so many people during our engagement has been incredibly moving, and has touched us both deeply.”

They also released a new photograph taken by celebrity photographer Mario Testino _ a warm black-and-white image of a comforting snuggle.

Friday’s wedding will offer pomp and circumstance on grand scale, with 1,900 invited guests, royal carriages and mounted troops of the Household Calvary. Rows of bold red, white and blue Union Jacks have been unfurled and street cleaners have scrubbed the pavement.

Thousands of people are expected along the parade route Friday, a snaking path less than a mile (two kilometers) from Westminster Abbey to Buckingham Palace, where the new royal couple will appear on the balcony for a kiss watched by millions around the world.

Westminster Abbey itself has been transformed into a blooming forest, with six field maples and two hornbeams lining the aisle leading up to the altar. Dozens of die-hard fans were already camped out in tents and sleeping bags near the iconic landmark.

The wedding presents a security challenge for the 5,000 police officers on duty, who will be on the lookout for Irish dissident terrorists, Muslim extremists, anti-monarchists, protesters and hooligans who might blight the royal spectacle.

A wide range of police will be on patrol: officers on motorcycles, escort specialists, dog handlers, search officers, mounted police, protection officers and firearms units.

Scotland Yard Police Commander Christine Jones said there has been no new terror threat but considerable Internet chatter. “Our operation has been meticulously planned, and we have thought through and planned for a huge range of contingencies,” she said.

But it wouldn’t be a wedding without a tussle over the guest list. Britain revoked a royal wedding invitation to Syrian Ambassador Sami Khiyami because of violent attacks on protesters by the regime there.

More than 450 people have been killed since last month in the uprising against President Bashar Assad’s authoritarian regime, with 120 dead over the weekend, according to the U.N.

Royal families from Bahrain, Bhutan, Brunei, Kuwait, Lesotho, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Swaziland have been invited, prompting the anti-monarchy Republic group to call the guest list “a Who’s Who of tyrants and their cronies.”

Critics had questioned why there was room for despots in the Abbey while former British Prime Ministers Gordon Brown and Tony Blair, both from the Labour Party, were omitted.

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