Britain's Queen Elizabeth welcomed in Singapore library

Cheering schoolchildren greeted Britain 's Queen Elizabeth II at Singapore 's national library Friday during her first visit to the former British colony since 1989. About 400 children at the library entrance cheered and waved Singaporean and British flags as the monarch arrived, waving and smiling at the students on her way in.

At a library exhibition of photos by young people, she stopped to chat with student Alvina Tan, 18, who had taken one of the pictures on display. "I was surprised to find that the queen is actually a very friendly person," Tan said. "I felt very relaxed around her when she asked me about my picture. She feels just like a grandmother to me."

The queen, who wore a jade-green jacket, silk dress and matching hat, was accompanied by a delegation of British and Singaporean officials. She later laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, a monument to those who died in World Wars I and II, and spoke briefly to veterans.

"I'm very happy to see her as I've always borne an allegiance to her majesty," said 82-year-old T.S. Zain, a sergeant in the British military police during World War II. In the morning, Singapore 's largely ceremonial president, S.R. Nathan, welcomed the queen at the Southeast Asian city-state's colonial-era presidential palace, where she inspected a Singapore military guard of honor.

At the palace, military bands played both countries' national anthems as officers raised the blue flag of the Commonwealth, a loose confederation of countries once in the British empire . Police quickly removed an animal rights protester dressed as a bear and holding a sign saying "God Save the Bears" who appeared outside the palace gates. The protester said the queen's Buckingham Palace guards should use fake fur instead of bearskin for their famous hats.

Queen Elizabeth, who arrived Thursday from Australia , was accompanied by her husband Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. They were staying at Singapore 's colonial-style Raffles Hotel, a national monument that was built in 1887 and known as a haunt for writers W. Somerset Maugham, Joseph Conrad and Rudyard Kipling.

The queen's other engagements included a meeting with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, a visit to a public housing estate and a state banquet. Singapore was touted as an impregnable fortress of the British Empire before it fell swiftly to Japanese forces on Feb. 15, 1942 one in a succession of territories taken by the Japanese as they swept across Asia.

Britain and Singapore enjoy close ties. In July, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Prime Minister Lee signed an agreement to promote collaboration in science, engineering and technology, partly through fellowships and joint research, reports the AP.

N.U.