Monday, 10 December, 2001, 20:01 GMT

RealPlayer Audio Report:

Clinton effigy burned before gala dinner

Bill Clinton arrived in Scotland on Monday

Pro-Palestinian protesters have burned an effigy of Bill Clinton outside a
hotel where the former US president was speaking at a controversial
fundraising event.
Dozens of protesters turned up outside the Hilton Hotel in Glasgow before Mr
Clinton addressed more than 750 people at a Jewish charity function on
Monday night.

They condemned efforts to raise cash for the Jewish National Fund (JNF) and
said the group contributed to problems in the Middle East.

These claims were rejected by the JNF who said the event aimed to raise cash
for agricultural projects.

This was Mr Clinton's second visit to Scotland this year. In May he made a
surprise visit to St Andrews for a round of golf at the world-famous Old
Course during the final leg of a European tour.

On Monday he played another round of golf at Turnberry, in Ayrshire, before
heading on to the Glasgow event.

He arrived at the hotel still wearing casual golfing clothes and told
reporters: "It's lovely. I'm glad to be back.

"I have had a wonderful time - it's a beautiful day. It's a little warmer
than I thought it would be."

Mr Clinton said he would talk "a little about current events" during his
speech at the 125-a-head dinner.

'Travel is safe'

He said: "I am quite confident that we are going to prevail in this conflict
in Afghanistan.

"I think our defences will get better at home. I think we have to build a
world where we have fewer terrorists and more partners, and that means we
have work to do after this conflict is over that is every bit as important
as what we are doing now."

The former US president said he had never given any thought to cancelling
his trip to Scotland in the current climate.

"They (JNF) are engaged in exercises that are extremely undermining to any
possibility of a peace process"
 Bill Speirs, STUC

He said: "I think air travel is safe, and I think the purpose of terror is
to make people change their lives, to make us afraid of today, afraid of
tomorrow, afraid of each other - and we should not be."

He also declined to comment on the protests ahead of his speech in Glasgow.

He added: "I can't comment on the protests because I don't know what they
are upset about."

Mr Clinton's speech was part of an initiative to help the JNF raise up to

The charity began life long before the establishment of Israel, with the
goal of buying land for Jewish settlers in Palestine.

'Undermining peace process'

It now focuses on the building of reservoirs and creation of green space.

Many prominent members of Scotland's Jewish community turned out at the

But some critics said Mr Clinton was supporting a group which was
undermining the peace process in the Middle East.

Scottish Trades Unions Congress (STUC) General Secretary Bill Speirs said
that although the JNF did support "agricultural projects" it remained
involved in questionable activities.

He said: "The difficulty is that they do much more than that and they are
engaged in exercises that are extremely undermining to any possibility of a
peace process."

He said the JNF had built roads to connect Jewish settlements in disputed
territories around Israel and said the group's website refers to "strong
links" with Israeli defence forces.

These allegations were denied by JNF representative Abbie Ben Ari who said
that Mr Clinton would not have risked his reputation to address a "racist

Referring to the Middle East conflict, he said: "Mr Clinton has given
literally thousands upon thousands of hours of trying to bring the two sides

He said that if the former US president thought the JNF was "practising
apartheid" then he would not have agreed to the engagement.

Marital infidelities

The Scottish Executive's decision to send Minister for Parliament Patricia
Ferguson to the charity gala has also been condemned.

Glasgow Kelvin MP George Galloway said it was "a disgrace that the executive
has decided to be officially represented".

Event organisers rejected this and said the dinner was simply a chance to
listen to one of the most fascinating characters in the world.

One person who was not in the audience on Monday night was Scotland's First
Minister Jack McConnell.

It was reported that he withdrew from the engagement amid fears that
sections of the media would choose to focus on his and Mr Clinton's past
marital infidelities.

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