A NELSON solicitor and Euro MP today slammed a top US government official's visit to East Lancashire as a shameless publicity stunt.

And Sajjad Karim told US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice not to visit the area this weekend unless she apologised for the war in Iraq and for the prisoners being held in Guantanamo Bay.

Ms Rice, the first black woman to hold the post, will visit Blackburn tomorrow and Saturday returning the compliment to the town's MP and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who visited her home town of Birmingham, Alabama last year.

She will be touring an un-named well-performing school and factory as well as Ewood Park during her tour, which it is claimed will showcase the area on a global level.

But Mr Karim said: "I think it is wholly inappropriate for Jack Straw to be organising a series of events for Ms Rice designed to do nothing more than provide the world's press with a photo opportunity.

"While Mr Straw and Ms Rice are being entertained to a series of gala events and lavish dining, I doubt the British forces serving in Basra, the innocent Iraqis caught up in the turmoil in their own country or the detainees at Guantanamo Bay will be celebrating her visit in such style."

Mr Karim, who grew up in Brierfield, admitted high profile state visits were normally good at boosting the tourism and local economy of the region.

However, he blamed Ms Rice for the instability in Iraq and for Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-ray, in Cuba, where hundreds of people suspected of terrorism are held without charge.

He added: "Under normal circumstances I would accept that high profile visits such as these can benefit the local economy and tourism for the region.

"But Condoleezza Rice is directly responsible for what has happened at Guantanamo Bay, where people are being held against international law, and the extraordinary rendition of innocent people by the CIA.

"Unless Ms Rice is planning on using this trip to apologise for the war in Iraq or to announce the release of the detainees in Guantanamo Bay, she may as well stay at home so far as I am concerned."