Blair’s visit to focus on technology, social programs

When British Prime Minister Tony Blair meets with Mayor Gavin Newsom this weekend the conversation will likely stay clear of the Iraq war, Newsom said Friday.

Newsom will join Blair tonight for dinner at the Russian Hill home of former Secretary of State George Shultz, where he will present Blair with the key to the city. Then on Sunday, the two will tour the Delancey Street Foundation, San Francisco’s nationally recognized drug-and-substance-abuse program.

Following a meeting with President George W. Bush, Blair arrived at the San Francisco International Airport on Friday evening, kicking off a five-day tour of California.

“I think that’s the only controversy with [Blair’s] visit, his obvious unwavering support of President Bush and the war,” Newsom said on Friday.

San Francisco residents have taken a strong anti-war stance, with residents partaking in frequent marches against the war. At the onset of the war, protesters managed on multiple days to shut down the Financial District. In addition, the Board of Supervisors have loudly trumpeted against the war and President Bush, passing resolutions to not invade Iraq, to impeach Bush and to ban military recruiting on school campuses.

“[The war is a] point of disagreement for a lot of people. But we will focus on other things to the extent that we want to make this a positive visit for him and for our city.”

Those “other things” include the “good work we’re doing on homelessness and housing” as well as biotechnology, nanotechnology and stem-cell research, Newsom said, adding “these are some of the things we’ll showcase and some of the things we’ll hopefully collaborate with him on.”

Blair is interested in Delancey Street because it is “such a unique program” with a high-level of success,” said Lorraine Turner, spokeswoman for the British Consulate.

When asked if he would bring up the topic of the Iraq War, Newsom said, “I don’t think I am going to say, ‘Hey Mr. Prime Minister, I would like to spend two hours with you discussing and debating the war in Iraq. I don’t know if that’s necessarily protocol or appropriate.”

After Sunday’s Delancey Street tour, Blair is scheduled to have lunch with a number of Bay Area CEOs, including John Chambers of Cisco Systems and Mark Hurd of Hewlett-Packard. On Monday, Blair is expected to tour the South San Francisco-based Genetech, the world’s second-largest biotech company.

Blair will then travel to Long Beach, where he will meet with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and business leaders to discuss climate control and the mitigation of global warming. At some point over the weekend, Blair is also expected to meet with Democratic gubernatorial candidate Phil Angelides.

Blair concludes his United States visit on Tuesday with a foreign policy speech before the World Affairs Council in Los Angeles.

jsabatini@examiner.comBay Area NewsGovernment & PoliticsLocalPolitics

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