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Leaders are deaf to world's plea

By Peter Fray and Caroline Overington

 February 17 2003

The United States and Britain have vowed to press on with a second United Nations resolution, preparing the way for war on Iraq in spite of unprecedented worldwide peace protests.

Up to 10 million people marched across 600 towns and cities at the weekend in the biggest co-ordinated anti-war protest in history.

Some of the largest protests took place in Britain, Italy and Spain, whose governments are strongly supporting the US in its push to attack Iraq and disarm Saddam Hussein.

Speakers at the rallies warned national leaders that support for the US would spell the end of their political careers.

As more than a million protesters gathered in central London, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said that failure to act against Saddam would have "bloody consequences".
"Ridding the world of Saddam would be an act of humanity," he told his party's spring conference in Glasgow. "It is leaving him there that is in truth inhumane.

"If the result of peace, of an absence of conflict, is Saddam in power, not disarmed, I simply say there are consequences paid in blood for that decision, too."

The Lord Mayor of London, Ken Livingstone, told the Hyde Park rally, the biggest in the capital's history, that the US plan to attack Iraq was about control of the country's oil.

"It's not about human rights. It's not about weapons of mass destruction. It's about who will control the second largest deposit of oil on the planet."

Anti-war rallies were held across South America, Africa and Asia, though the largest were in Europe and the US, where an estimated 200,000 people surrounded the UN building in New York.

On a freezing winter day, a huge crowd, prohibited by a court order from marching, rallied within sight of the UN under heavy security.

They raised banners of patriotism and dissent, sounded the hymns of a broad, new anti-war movement and heard speakers denounce what they called President George Bush's rush to war.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, voicing a theme heard at many US rallies, said: "Any war that you fight before exhausting all legal alternatives is immoral. We must resist this war."

Speakers standing in front of a banner reading "The World Says No to War" called for UN weapons inspectors to be given more time, and marchers implored US leaders to heed what they said was a growing consensus against an attack on Iraq.

"We know Saddam Hussein is evil, and we have to track down Osama bin Laden, but carpet bombing Iraq is insane," said Jan Powell, a New Yorker, who, like many in the crowd, said she hadn't been to a demonstration since the Vietnam era.

"Any idea that we should kill innocent Iraqis to avenge 9/11 is cynical and wrong," added Andrew Rice, whose brother, David, was killed in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre. "We can't exploit our anger to murder children halfway around the world."

Estimates of the numbers at rallies varied widely, but it is believed more than 500,000 people gathered in Berlin and at least a million in Rome.

Organisers in London vowed to press on with action to prevent the war, including a wave of strikes and sit-ins on the day an attack is launched.


How can we manifest peace on earth if we do not include everyone (all races, all nations, all religions, both sexes) in our vision of Peace?

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