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Furor will follow Jackson to UK

Some say singer will not be warmly received
/ Source: Reuters

Pop star Michael Jackson, expected to fly to Britain this week for a Christmas visit, is unlikely to escape the furor surrounding his forthcoming court fight over a barrage of child sex charges back home.

A spokesman for the embattled King of Pop confirmed the singer would fly to Britain, but stayed tight-lipped over details of the Christmas trip. Some British politicians questioned the logic behind the visit by the star.

“I must confess I was a little bit surprised that someone in America can be released from their (bail) condition of not traveling abroad in order to launch a CD,” British Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told the BBC Sunday.

“I wonder whether that would have happened to an ordinary person who said 'I want to go to visit my mum’. But that’s their decision, not ours,” Prescott said.

Although hugely popular in Britain, where his latest album “Number Ones” is No. 3 on the charts, Jackson is unlikely to be as warmly received when -- or if -- he arrives as he was on a 2001 visit, when he addressed Oxford University.

Jackson, who has regularly topped the charts over a 30-year career, was arrested on suspicion of child molestation last month and released on $3 million bail.

California police have charged him with nine counts of molesting a boy under the age of 14, including committing seven “lewd acts.” Jackson denies the charges.

A trip to Britain was made possible after his lawyers arranged with prosecutors the return of his passport which was confiscated after his arrest.

The singer is due in court in the United States on January 16 for a formal reading of charges, but has two contractual agreements in Britain that pre-date his arrest warrant, British media reported.

His spokesman was offering few details:

“When he goes, where he goes and for what purpose he goes is private,” Jackson’s spokesman Stuart Backerman told reporters in Los Angeles.

“We can’t really comment any further on that because it’s a personal obligation that he’s going for and may stay a few more days obviously for the Christmas season to relax,” he said.

But with several members of Britain’s ruling Labour Party calling for Jackson to be banned from entering the country, the singer may not find the relaxation he seeks.

“He’s a great performer and I think he can only erode that reputation by making the judgement to come to Britain at this time,” Labour Member of Parliament Dan Norris told Sky News.