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SHOWDOWN WITH IRAQ

Indonesians Protest Possible War

Thousands in nation with the world's largest Muslim population gather for peaceful rally against any U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

February 10, 2003|From Reuters

JAKARTA, Indonesia — Thousands of people protested in this Indonesian capital Sunday against a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq, one of the biggest demonstrations yet on the issue in the country with the world's largest Muslim population.

The official Antara news agency put the number of protesters, who ranged from students to families with babies in arms, at "tens of thousands."

Other observers said the crowd was closer to 7,000 when it marched past the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, pausing occasionally for speeches, songs and chants of "God is great!"

"We demand America halt aggression, especially against Muslim countries," a young man, Taufan, said.

Protesters carried signs reading "Bush's war against Iraq equals state terrorism" and "Stop war. Save peace and humanity."

Police with riot shields were on hand near the embassy, but the crowd was peaceful.

Nearly 90% of Indonesia's 232 million people are Muslim. The vast majority is considered moderate and supports the government's crackdown on militants believed linked to October's bombing on Bali that killed nearly 200 people.

But neither the government nor many Indonesians are sympathetic to U.S. policy on Iraq or other Middle East issues, such as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Meanwhile, in Malaysia, the state-run news agency Bernama said the government is pulling its embassy staff out of Baghdad. In Manila, officials said the Philippines is closing its embassy in the Iraqi capital and expected to receive "confidential advance notice" of any attack from the U.S.

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