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WAR WITH IRAQ

100,000 Indonesians March in Protest

The antiwar rally is the largest yet in the world's most populous Muslim country.

March 31, 2003|Richard C. Paddock | Times Staff Writer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — More than 100,000 people marched peacefully to the United States Embassy on Sunday to protest the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, a sign of growing anti-American sentiment in the world's most populous Muslim country.

In the largest demonstration in Indonesia since the war began, many attacked President Bush personally, calling him a terrorist and war criminal and comparing him to Hitler, Satan, vampires and monkeys.

Others carried pictures of Saddam Hussein and expressed support for the Iraqi leader. "Be patient Saddam, God will help you," read one sign.

Officials put the number of protesters at 100,000, while organizers said 250,000 marched through central Jakarta.

The Indonesian demonstration was among the largest across the globe Sunday. Protesters took to the streets from India to Pakistan to Spain and even to China, where authorities permitted a rare official campus protest in Beijing.

Unlike in neighboring Australia, protests in Indonesia have been slow to develop. There have been daily protests in front of the U.S. Embassy, but usually drawing no more than a few hundred people. Some radical Muslims have harassed Americans on the street and tried to shut down KFC and McDonald's restaurants, but they have gained little support.

Few Indonesians support Hussein, but many oppose what they see as U.S. attempts to dominate the world.

"I came here to show our solidarity for our brothers and sisters," said Dwi Rini, 33. "We do not defend Saddam, but the Iraqi people, the civilians and innocent children. Stop the killing of civilians."

Leaders of the protest called for Bush, British Prime Minister Tony Blair and Australian Prime Minister John Howard to be tried as war criminals for sending troops to Iraq.

"All the people of Indonesia, without exception, want Bush to withdraw his forces from Iraq," Amien Rais, a parliamentary leader and potential presidential candidate, told the crowd.

In Morocco later Sunday, about 150,000 marched in Rabat, accusing the United States, Britain and Israel of attempting to seize Iraq and then attack other Muslim countries in the Middle East. Police quickly dispersed the crowd after clashing with some of the protesters.

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