Bush, Blair Banned from Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity

DUBAI: The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, believed to be the birthplace of Jesus Christ, has barred U.S. President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair from ever entering the shrine.

Christianity’s holiest shrine branded the two “war criminals”, Qatar News Agency reported. The agency, in a report from Bethlehem monitored here, said U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had also been denied the privilege of visiting the sacred place. The move was in protest against “the aggressive war these leaders have waged against Iraq”, the agency quoted the chief priest of the church, Father Panaritus, as saying at a protest demonstration against the war organised by orthodox Christians outside the church Monday.

“They are war criminals and murderers of children. Therefore, the Church of Nativity decided to ban them access into the holy shrine forever,” the priest said.