, LONDON, Apr 24 – The guest list for Britain\’s royal wedding sparked controversy on Sunday over the invitation of leaders from countries with poor rights records, and the exclusion of two former prime ministers.
Rights groups said Prince William and Kate Middleton were wrong to invite foreign royals from countries such as Bahrain and Swaziland, where authorities have violently suppressed pro-democracy protests in recent weeks.
British newspapers meanwhile pointed out that Labour ex-premiers Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were snubbed on the list, which was released Saturday, while former Conservative leaders Margaret Thatcher and John Major were invited.
"Labour MPs will not be alone in thinking it odd the two former occupants of Number 10 (Downing Street) have not been invited to the wedding," the Sunday Telegraph commented.
Royal officials said Blair, who was in power from 1997-2007, and Brown, who was premier from 2007-2010, were not invited because unlike Major and Thatcher they are not Knights of the Garter, Britain\’s highest honour.
St James\’s Palace, William\’s office, said the wedding was "not a state occasion so there is no reason why they (Blair and Brown) would be invited," the Sunday Telegraph reported.
Major, who was Britain\’s prime minister from 1990-1997, will attend but Thatcher, the so-called "Iron Lady" who was in power from 1979 to 1990, has declined on health grounds.
The list also caused surprise when it emerged that Crown Prince Salman of Bahrain would attend. Earlier reports said the Gulf state\’s rulers would withdraw to avoid embarrassment after a bloody crackdown on protesters there.
Anti-monarchy campaign group Republic hit out at inclusion of royals from not only Bahrain but also Saudi Arabia, Oman, Brunei, Qatar, Swaziland, Lesotho, Bhutan and Kuwait.
"This guest list reads like a \’Who\’s Who\’ of tyrants and their cronies," Republic chief Graham Smith said.
"Whatever happened to William\’s supposedly strong social conscience? He must take personal responsibility for this and rescind the invitations immediately."
St James\’s Palace said it had sought advice from Britain\’s foreign ministry on the guests.
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