Miss Otis regrets...

Powell cancels trip to Olympics

US Secretary of State Colin Powell has cancelled plans to attend the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games this weekend, citing a busy work schedule.

A state department spokesman said Mr Powell had called off the visit due to the "press of business in Washington."

Clashes erupted in Athens on Friday as thousands of anti-war protesters rallied to condemn the planned visit.

Marchers shouted angry slogans against the Bush administration and its operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The BBC's Richard Galpin reports that Friday's march through the centre of Athens attracted members of the anti-war movement, anti-globalisation activists and anarchists.

One of the organisers, Petros Konstantinou, said it was unacceptable that Colin Powell should come to Greece to meet government ministers and attend the closing ceremony of the Games on Sunday, given the current level of violence in many parts of Iraq.

"We cannot recognise the right of a war criminal to participate in the final ceremony of the Olympic Games," he said.

Saturday's statement by state department spokesman Richard Boucher made no reference to the unrest in Athens.

"Secretary of State Colin Powell informed Greek Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis that, due to the press of business in Washington, the secretary would not be able to travel to Athens to attend the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games," he said.

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