DUBLIN // Angry protesters have thrown objects at British former prime minister Tony Blair as he arrived at the first public signing session to promote his memoirs in the Irish capital Dublin. More than 200 noisy protesters, many chanting slogans criticising Mr Blair over the 2003 Iraq war, had gathered for the event and witnesses said plastic bottles and flip-flops were thrown at him as his motorcade arrived.
None of the objects - also reported to include eggs and shoes - landed near him. As Mr Blair pulled up, demonstrators surged toward him and tried to push down a security barrier but were repelled by police and some demonstrators were led away. A police spokesman said the number of arrests was in single figures but would not give a precise figure. Mr Blair was carrying out the signing at a Dublin bookshop to publicise A Journey, his account of his decade in Downing Street from 1997 to 2007, which was released earlier this week.
In the book, he said he "can't regret" the decision to go to war in Iraq, which he took alongside then US president George W Bush, but acknowledged that he did not foresee the "nightmare" which was unleashed in the aftermath. He will hold another book signing in London on Wednesday which anti-war activists are also saying they will target. In Dublin, the demonstrators waved placards with slogans such as "Blair lied, millions died" and "Lock him up for genocide" and chanted amid a heavy police presence.
Part of the city's main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street, where the shop is located, was sealed off and access to the bookshop was being tightly controlled. Several hundred people braved pouring rain to queue at the back entrance to the store in the hope of getting their book signed by Mr Blair. Many hoping to meet him were left disappointed when he left after about an hour-and-a-half of signing. In his first live television interview promoting the book yesterday, Mr Blair brushed off the opposition he still faces from anti-war campaigners, seven years after the Iraq invasion.
"One of the first things that you learn in politics is that those who shout most don't deserve necessarily to be listened to most," he told the Irish state television RTE. "Everyone should be listened to equally, irrespective of the volume of noise." In a fresh sign of continuing opposition, more than 2,500 people have joined a group on social networking website Facebook calling for shoppers to move Mr Blair's book to the crime section in bookshops.
Despite continuing controversy over his role in the Iraq conflict, Mr Blair is particularly hailed in Ireland for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process. * AFP