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Former London mayor Ken Livingstone said on Saturday he regretted a row over anti-Semitism that has rocked Britain's opposition Labour party, but refused to withdraw comments linking Hitler to Zionism.



"I really regret saying it because it has caused all this eruption," the veteran politician told LBC radio, amid a controversy that threatens to damage Labour's chances ahead of regional elections next week.



But he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had made similar remarks, adding: "I never regret saying something that is true."



Livingstone was suspended from the centre-left party on Thursday after saying Hitler initially wanted to move Jews to Israel, and "was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews".




Britain's opposition Labour Party on Thursday (April 28) suspended former London mayor Ken Livingstone after he said Hitler supported Zionism, in a furious row over anti-Semitism that is dividing the party.

"Ken Livingstone has been suspended by the Labour Party, pending an investigation, for bringing the party into disrepute," a Labour spokesman said.

Mr Livingstone told BBC Radio London: "When Hitler won his election in 1932 his policy then was that Jews should be moved to Israel. He was supporting Zionism before he went mad and ended up killing six million Jews."



Big Ben will fall silent for several months while the iconic London clock tower next to the Houses of Parliament undergoes "desperately needed" repairs next year, officials said on Tuesday (April 26).

The bell, whose chimes feature on British radio broadcasts, will be silenced as part of the £29 million repairs.

The work will repair the clock faces and mechanism, cracks in the tower's masonry and corrosion in the roof, as well as restoring the edging around the clock faces to their original 19th-century colour.


British Prime Minister David Cameron accused the main opposition Labour party's candidate for London mayor of associating with an alleged supporter of the Islamic State group on Wednesday, triggering a furious row.

Cameron's comments were aimed at Sadiq Khan, a Muslim former government minister and human rights lawyer who is leading opinion polls for the May 5 mayoral election.

During Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, Cameron accused Khan of appearing alongside imam Sulaiman Ghani on nine occasions. "If we are going to condemn not just violent extremism but also the extremism that seeks to justify violence in any way, it is very important that we do not back these people and we do not appear on platforms with them," Cameron said.

The prime minister added that he was "concerned" about Khan, accusing him of appearing "again and again and again" with Ghani, saying: "This man supports IS." Cameron's comments were interrupted by an uproar from Labour MPs, some of whom shouted "racist" at him.



US President Barack Obama will be thrust into the eye of a boisterous British debate over European Union membership when he touches down in London on Thursday for a royal-filled visit.



The US president's four-day trip -- perhaps his last to Britain before leaving office next year -- comes ahead of a June 23 referendum when Britons will be asked if they want to remain in the 28-member EU.



Obama is sure to be asked to weigh in on the issue during a joint press conference on Friday after talks with Prime Minister David Cameron or at a town hall-style meeting with British youngsters on Saturday.



It may even come up at a lunch with Queen Elizabeth II at Windsor Castle on Friday -- a day after the monarch's 90th birthday, when the two heads of state will be joined by First Lady Michelle Obama.



Britain's departure from the EU -- so-called Brexit -- could have deep ramifications for Washington's "special relationship" with Britain, and on the stability of the European Union itself.



- 'Exorbitant hypocrisy' -





British environmental activists put face masks on famous statues across London on Monday including the one of Horatio Nelson on Trafalgar Square to draw attention to the problem of air pollution.

Two Greenpeace campaigners scaled the 52-metre (171-foot) high Nelson's Column in the early hours of Monday to put a mask on the famous naval commander.

Masks were put on 17 statues, including Queen Victoria near Buckingham Palace, Eros at Piccadilly Circus and Winston Churchill outside parliament.

London's Metropolitan Police said that eight people had been arrested -- two on Trafalgar Square, four on Parliament Square and two on Hyde Park Corner.

A parliament spokeswoman confirmed there had been "a minor security incident on the parliamentary estate" which was being dealt with by the police.

Greenpeace said it aimed to highlight the health risks caused by the city's poor air quality.



A British Airways plane struck an object believed to be a drone as it was coming in for landing at Heathrow, Europe's busiest airport, police said.

An investigation has been launched into the incident, which follows a string of near misses involving drones and is believed to be the first case of a collision in Britain.

The plane, an Airbus A320 with 132 passengers and five crew on board, was on its final descent into Heathrow when it was struck.

"A pilot on an inbound flight into Heathrow Airport from Geneva reported to police that he believed a drone had struck the aircraft," a spokeswoman for London's Metropolitan Police said.

"The flight landed at Heathrow Terminal Five safely. It transpired that an object, believed to be a drone, had struck the front of the aircraft".

A BA spokesman said the plane had been examined after landing and was cleared to operate its next flight.



A senior lawmaker in David Cameron's Conservative party warned Saturday that the prime minister "wouldn't last 30 seconds" if Britain votes to leave the European Union in a June referendum.



Cameron confirmed this week that he intends to stay and oversee the process of leaving the 28-member bloc if voters back a so-called Brexit, despite leading the campaign to remain.



But Ken Clarke, a pro-European who served as a minister under Cameron as well as former Conservative premiers John Major and Margaret Thatcher, said such a situation would be "farcical".



"The prime minister wouldn't last 30 seconds if he lost the referendum and we'd be plunged into a Conservative leadership crisis which is never a very edifying sight," he told BBC radio.



At a rally for the campaign to leave the EU, leading Brexit supporter and London mayor Boris Johnson said the prime minister should stay in office regardless of the outcome of the referendum.



A time traveller from 1975 would find Britain's EU referendum strikingly familiar -- except that the two main parties have swapped roles on whether or not to remain in the bloc.

A prime minister, trying to appease the Eurosceptic wing of his fractured party, calls a vote on membership and encourages Britons to stay in, after securing some concessions from Brussels.

But back in 1975, when Britain voted on whether to stay in the European Economic Community it had joined two years earlier, it was a Labour prime minister calling the vote rather than a Conservative one.

In the June 5, 1975 referendum, 67 percent followed Harold Wilson's advice to stay in the EEC -- a result Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron would be more than happy with from the June 23 vote this year.

The Conservative opposition, under their new leader Margaret Thatcher, staunchly defended Britain's EEC membership, with the Iron Lady even seen campaigning in a jumper with the nine member states' flags on.

She accused Labour of putting Britain's future at risk in a bid to end their own infighting.

"The referendum is a tactical device to get over a split in their own party," she told parliament.

Her transformation to visceral euroscepticism was still 15 years into the future.

Today, the infighting is in the Conservative ranks, while Labour is broadly united in defending Britain's place in the European Union, the successor to the EEC.

Jeremy Corbyn, the socialist leader of the opposition Labour Party, spelled out his reasons for staying in on Thursday -- despite a long personal track record of Euroscepticism, including voting out in 1975.

"In contrast to four decades ago, the EU of today brings together most of the countries of Europe and has developed important employment, environmental and consumer protections," he said.

Professor Sara Hobolt, a European politics expert at the London School of Economics university, said the EU nowadays is about much more than just free trade, the main concern of its EEC predecessor.

"Centre-left parties in Europe find it easier to be pro-EU today than they did in the 1970s," she said.

- Europe has also changed -



Activists hit the streets Friday for the first official day of campaigning over Britain's "Brexit" referendum, firing the starting pistol on a tense 10-week battle over the country's future in Europe.

Opinion polls suggest the British public is evenly split ahead of the June 23 vote, which could bring down Prime Minister David Cameron and plunge one of the world's leading economies into uncertainty.

The referendum -- Britons' first direct say on the divisive issue of Europe in 41 years -- is also being nervously watched in Washington and Brussels, where a British exit would add to a long list of EU crises.

"We absolutely think we're going to win it," Peter Reeve, a spokesman for the UK Independence Party (UKIP), told AFP as he campaigned in Peterborough -- a market town in eastern England where an influx of East European workers has angered many locals.

Charismatic London Mayor Boris Johnson will lead a "Brexit blitz" with rallies on Friday and Saturday where he will try to persuade Britons that they could thrive if cut free from European Union red tape.

Johnson has compared leaving the 28-country bloc to escaping from prison, saying the referendum was "like the jailer has accidentally left the door of the jail open and people can see the sunlit lands beyond".