Trump drops London visit over sale of embassy property; Mayor Khan says president not welcome

President Trump abruptly canceled his planned February visit to the United Kingdom over what he described as a bad real estate deal negotiated by Obama White House officials for the site which housed the former U.S. embassy in London.

Mr. Trump had accepted an invitation for a state visit to London in 2017, but no date was ever established.  Trump’s critics charge he cancelled the visit to avoid expected demonstrations.

Trump described the sale of the property, a decision he incorrectly attributed to former President Obama, as a “peanuts” deal.

Although the sale price was never revealed by either the Bush or Obama administrations, UK Land Registry records revealed the property was sold for £315million ($431 million), far below the estimated £500m ($687 million) value.

It is not known whether the final sale price was settled by the Bush or Obama administration.

While Trump is correct the business transaction occurred under Obama, the negotiations to sell the Grosvenor Square site which was home to the U.S. embassy in London since 1960 was initiated during the George W. Bush era.

Under a 2008 agreement, the U.S. embassy property in London was eventually sold to a Qatari government investment fund, which is planning a luxury hotel in its place.  The U.S. government also sold a smaller property near the old American embassy in 2007.

At a cost of $1 billion, the new U.S. embassy is said to have been entirely financed by proceeds of the sale of both Grosvenor Square properties.

Both the Bush White House and the State Department had cited security as the primary basis for the embassy move.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, a critic of Trump, tweeted the president’s “divisive agenda” has made him persona non grata in London.  Khan added Trump’s cancelled trip indicates Londoners had delivered an effective message, as the American president represents “the polar opposite of our city’s values of inclusion, diversity and tolerance.”

Formerly located in the Mayfair section in central London, among the most-valuable property in London, the U.S. embassy is now located on the banks of the Thames River on Nine Elms in Vauxhall.

Then and now: The location of the old embassy in Grosvenor Square compared to the new one in Nine Elms 

The new U.S. embassy is scheduled to officially open on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

 

[Reuters] [Daily Mail] [Photo courtesy SWNS.com via Daily Mail]

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