Artists, protesters target Blair book party

Wed Sep 8, 2010 10:02am EDT
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LONDON (Reuters) - Former British premier Tony Blair has been forced to postponed a party at the Tate Modern art gallery celebrating the launch of his autobiography because of threats from anti-war protesters, his office said on Wednesday.

Demonstrators had planned to disrupt the Wednesday evening reception and a group of celebrated artists including Tracey Emin and Vivienne Westwood had called on the gallery to cancel the "disgraceful" event.

Blair has also been forced to cancel a signing session for "A Journey" at a bookstore in central London.

"It has been postponed for the same reason as the book signing," a spokesman for Blair said.

"We don't want to put our guests through the unpleasant consequences of the actions of demonstrators."

At the weekend, protestors hurled eggs and shoes at the former prime minister during a promotional event in Dublin.

Blair, prime minister for Labour between 1997 and 2007, led Britain into wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In particular, the occupation of Iraq by Western coalition forces was widely opposed and contributed to a dive in Blair's popularity.

Emin, Westwood and musician Brian Eno, were among figures from the arts world who wrote a letter to the Guardian newspaper on Wednesday to voice their concern about the Tate Modern event.

"Mr Blair is widely held to be incriminated in war crimes and a majority of the British public believe he lied to parliament to take Britain into the illegal Iraq war," they wrote.

"It is disgraceful that the Tate is being used for this purpose and we urge the gallery, even at this late stage, to reconsider its decision to host this event."

(Reporting by Matt Falloon; Editing by Steve Addison)

<p>Reduced price copies of the memoirs of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair are seen in the window of a bookshop in London September 6, 2010. Blair said on Monday he had cancelled a book-signing in London this week to mark the launch of his memoirs, over fears the event would be hit by protests. REUTERS/Toby Melville</p>