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Protesters Decry Iraq Occupation

Crowds demonstrate in cities including London, Warsaw, Beirut and Seoul.

September 28, 2003|From Associated Press

LONDON — Thousands of protesters demanding an end to the occupation of Iraq took to the streets Saturday in London, Athens, Paris and other cities around the world, chanting slogans against the United States and Britain.

The first major demonstrations since Saddam Hussein was ousted in April were organized in each country by local activist groups that have informal contacts.

London's was the biggest protest, drawing 20,000 people. Demonstrators turned out in a dozen other countries, including South Korea and Lebanon.

"No more war. No more lies," proclaimed a banner pinned to the pedestal of Nelson's Column in London's Trafalgar Square, where demonstrators rallied after a march through the city. People of all ages, including gray-haired couples and parents with toddlers, joined the orderly stream of protesters marching from Hyde Park.

"I don't believe the war with Iraq was right and the proof is, we haven't found any weapons of mass destruction," protester Emma Loebid, 20, said. "I think they should hand Iraq back to the Iraqis and get the troops out."

Questions about Prime Minister Tony Blair's tactics in trying to win public support before invading Iraq have left his government struggling through its worst crisis.

A poll taken Sept. 11-16 and published Saturday in the Financial Times found 50% of those questioned said Blair should step down. The newspaper did not give the sample size or margin of error.

About 3,000 people marched in Paris, where a wide banner read: "American Imperialism: Take your bloody hands off the Middle East." Others held posters that read: "Wanted: George W. Bush -- War Criminal."

In Beirut, thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian protesters demanded that U.S. forces leave Iraq and that Israel stop its attacks in the Palestinian territories.

Outside the U.S. Embassy in Athens, demonstrators hurled bottles and yogurt at riot police. About 3,000 protesters chanting, "Occupiers out" and "Freedom for Palestine" joined the rally.

Protests were also staged in other parts of Greece and on the island of Crete outside an American naval base.

In Spain, thousands of people carrying banners with antiwar slogans, banging drums and wearing white smocks marched through the streets of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and Malaga.

In Seoul, thousands of activists protested a U.S. request for South Korea to send troops to Iraq. Protesters chanted "No war!" and carried a banner saying "End the occupation in Iraq."

Protests also were staged in Cairo, Warsaw, Brussels, Stockholm and Ankara, the Turkish capital.

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