Date:   September 6, 2010

LONDON — Former Prime Minister Tony Blair said on Monday he had cancelled a book-signing in London this week to mark the launch of his memoirs, over fears the event would be hit by protests. Three people were arrested after eggs and shoes were thrown at Blair, 57, as he arrived to sign copies of “A Journey” at a bookshop in Dublin on Saturday and some of the 200 protesters clashed with police.

No injuries were reported and the missiles did not hit Blair. Anti-war campaigners and the far-right British National Party had said they would protest on Wednesday at the Waterstone’s branch in Piccadilly in central London over Blair’s decision to join the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“I have decided not to go ahead with the signing as I don’t want the public to be inconvenienced by the inevitable hassle caused by protestors,” Blair said in a statement on his website. “I know the Metropolitan Police would, as ever, have done a superb job in managing any disruption but I do not wish to impose an extra strain on police resources, simply for a book-signing.” He said he would sign books for Waterstone’s which would be available from the store on Thursday.

“I’m really sorry for those – as ever the majority – who would have come to have their books signed by me in person. I hope they understand.” Tight security had already been planned for the event, with all bags and mobile phones to have been checked in beforehand. In his memoirs, Blair – now an envoy for the Quartet of Middle East peacemakers, the United States, Russia, the EU and the United Nations – said he could have not have imagined what he called the “nightmare” that unfolded in Iraq.

He also echoed previous statements that the 2003 invasion was justified because Saddam Hussein posed a threat and could have developed weapons of mass destruction. Speaking to media on Monday, Blair said the book was selling “fantastically” well, although he is also facing an internet campaign which has been set up to try to disrupt sales. A group set up on the social networking site Facebook is calling for people to move copies into the “crime” section of bookstores. “Make bookshops think twice about where they categorise our generations (sic) greatest war criminal,” said the campaign, which has attracted almost 7,000 members.