Author`s name Pravda.Ru

Protesters boo top United States diplomat Rice during her tour of northern England

Demonstrators booed, chanted "Condoleezza Rice go home" and called the U.S. secretary of state a war criminal as she joined British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on a tour Friday of northern England.

About 200 demonstrators students and their parents protested Rice's visit to Pleckgate School . Some carried signs that read: "How many lives per gallon?" and "Blood, Lies, Oil, War."

Police in Blackburn a city of about 140,000 with the country's third-highest Muslim population kept the demonstrators behind a fence in an adjoining playing field. A majority of the students at Pleckgate School are Muslim.

Rice had planned to visit a mosque later Friday but officials canceled the trip because anti-war protesters said they would heckle her during prayer time, a mosque leader said. A prominent poet and actress pulled out of planned appearances at a Liverpool Philharmonic concert in protest of U.S. foreign policy.

But Rice said she wasn't surprised by the protests, calling it an essential element of a healthy democracy.

"People have the right to protest. That's what democracy is all about," she said in Blackburn , with Straw at her side.

"I've seen it in every city I've visited in the United States . No, I'm not surprised. People have strong views," she added.

Rice also is to meet Muslim leaders and the town's mayor, Ugandan immigrant Yusuf Jan-Virmani, on Saturday.

The protests were the reverse of the warm reception she received last fall when Straw accompanied her on a down-home tour of her native Alabama . Then, elderly white women lined up to shake the hand of a black native daughter made good, sports fans cheered and the tantalizing possibility of a run for president something she discounts surrounded Rice.

"It's one thing to say this is a cultural visit, but others see it as a council of war," said Carmel Brown, an anti-war protester in Liverpool .

Straw's visit to Alabama was intended to show a different side of America to a visiting foreign leader and friend. Many people he met in Alabama , and a few who introduced him at events, had never heard of the British diplomat.

Rice is far better known, as the two days of protests planned over U.S. policies in Iraq , Iran and the war on terrorism attest.

Rice and Straw planned speeches on Iran on Friday. The United States and Britain were among the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council that moved this week to demand answers from Tehran over its disputed nuclear program.

Opponents of the Iraq war set up a Web site, that listed times and locations for marches and gatherings. Protesters planned to distribute T-shirts that read, "Fab Four, Not War," in reference to Liverpool 's most famous export, The Beatles.

Rice had planned to attend Friday prayers at Masjide Al Hidayah mosque, but anti-war protesters presented a security threat, said Ibrahim Master, a mosque official.

"It wasn't canceled because we don't like Condoleezza Rice," said Master.

Rice and Straw also will discuss a $256 billion Joint Strike Fighter jet deal under negotiation. Straw is to show Rice a British Aerospace factory, where the pair are expected to discuss the deal with workers.

Britain may be America 's most trusted ally, but for months British concerns have been growing over how little the U.S. trusts it with information about software codes and weapons systems that both countries have committed billions of dollars to make.

This month, Britain 's top arms purchasing official told a U.S. Senate committee more sensitive technology must be shared or Britain would not enter the next phase of the Joint Strike Fighter program and would cancel its plans buy 150 of the next-generation stealth aircraft.

Straw and Rice also planned to visit Ewood Park , the home stadium of Straw's favorite soccer team, Blackburn Rovers, reports the AP.

D.M.