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'United 93' Actor Says Entry to US Denied
AOL News/Reuters
April 21, 2006

LONDON (April 21) - An Iraqi actor who plays a hijacker in a new film about the September 11 attacks on the United States has been denied entry into the country for the movie's premiere, he told a newspaper on Friday.

Lewis Alsamari, who has lived in Britain since 1995, stars in "United 93," which premieres at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York next week.

Directed by Briton Paul Greengrass, the film about the hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania has sparked debate about whether Americans are ready to see an on-screen portrayal of the events.

Alsamari, 30, said he may have been denied entry by the U.S. embassy in London because he served in the Iraqi army in the early 1990s.

"I think this was because I am still an Iraqi citizen and fought in the army -- but that was only because I was forced to," he told London's Evening Standard newspaper.

"It would be so disappointing not to be able to go because I still have not seen the film. I have only seen footage and it would have been amazing to be in New York for the premiere."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in London said she was aware of the case, but did not have any immediate comment on the status of Alsamari's application to travel to New York.

Alsamari added: "I hope I am not going to have to wait until the film comes out in Britain to watch United 93. It seems strange that I cannot go over for the premiere."

He said he escaped from the Iraqi army in 1993 and stayed in neighboring Jordan until 1995, when he moved to Britain seeking asylum. According to the Standard, he was granted asylum in Britain in 1998.

In February, actors starring in Michael Winterbottom's politically charged "The Road to Guantanamo" were held by British police under anti-terrorism legislation on their return from Berlin where the film premiered.

One of them said a police officer abused him verbally at Luton airport.

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