Diplomatic tantrums threatened to take some of the shine off tomorrow's [Friday] royal wedding, expected to be watched by an estimated two billion television viewers around the world, as the Syrian Ambassador's invitation was suddenly withdrawn after the Foreign Office said his presence was “unacceptable'' in the light of his government's crackdown against pro-democracy protests.
It said Buckingham Palace shared its view that it was “not considered appropriate for the Syrian Ambassador to attend the wedding.”
The last-minute decision, which the Ambassador Sami Khiyam found “embarrassing,'' raised eyebrows as it emerged that he had been singled out for humiliation. Ambassadors of Libya and Bahrain, both countries accused of repression, remained on the guest list despite protests from rights groups.
“I found it a bit embarrassing,” Dr. Khiyam said, “I don't really understand it but I understand the influence of media on the government decisions.”
The wedding has been dogged by controversy with Labour Party extremely upset that neither Tony Blair nor Gordon Brown, both former prime ministers, has been invited though their Tory predecessors John Major and Margaret Thatcher have received invitations.
Media frenzy escalated with hundreds of international TV crew camped outside Westminster Abbey where Prince William will wed Kate Middleton in front of 1,900 guests. The couple, who were said to be suffering from last-minute nerves, visited the Abbey for final rehearsals.
In a message, they said they were “incredibly moved'' by the affection shown to them since their engagement.
“The affection shown to us by so many people during our engagement has been incredibly moving, and has touched us both deeply. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone most sincerely for their kindness,” they said.
Large crowds were gathering outside the Abbey and Buckingham Palace. Many said they had travelled long distances to come to London and planned to “camp out'' to see the wedding.
A poll showed that there was greater enthusiasm among women than men. Less than a third of men expressed interest compared with slightly less two-thirds of women, The Times reported.
As the countdown began, there were fears that the famously fickle English weather could play the spoilsport.
Keywords: royal wedding