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Last Updated:  Thursday, 27 March, 2003, 17:26 GMT
Anti-war march pact reached
Young people at Thursday's demo in Edinburgh
War critics in Edinburgh on Thursday
Police and organisers of an anti-war march in Edinburgh on Saturday have reached agreement on the route the demonstration will take.

The discussions took place after Lothian and Borders Assistant Chief Constable Malcolm Dickson said he could not guarantee public safety because official permission had not been sought.

Thousands of people are expected to descend on the city centre for the march, which coincides with the Six Nations rugby match between Scotland and Italy.

A police spokesman said that although the march still had not been formally sanctioned, it was hoped that those taking part would abide by the spirit of the informal agreement.

'Pity from every perspective'

Earlier, Mr Dickson said policing demands could mean officers being withdrawn from other communities.

Mr Dickson said: "We police demonstrations every week and almost every day and when we do it with the co-operation of the organisers we can virtually guarantee the safety of the participants and that of the rest of the public as well as limited disruption to the wider community.

"Unfortunately I can't be so confident about the outcome of an unauthorised protest and that is a pity from every perspective."

Tino Ferri
Local authorities are doing absolutely nothing to curb this dramatic rise in truancy.
Tino Ferri

Mr Dickson also appealed to young people not to be drawn into unauthorised parades.

He urged parents to think carefully before either taking small children to the demonstration or allowing older children to take part.

"I am very concerned about the risks to innocent people whether they are well intentioned protesters or others going about their business," he said.

"Legitimate protest should not put people at risk of injury and it would be regrettable if genuinely held opinions created risks for people."

Meanwhile, a teaching union has called for parents who allow their children to skip school to attend anti-war demonstrations to be prosecuted.

'Question of time'

Tino Ferri, of the National Association of School Teachers and Women Teachers (NASWT), said: "Local authorities are doing absolutely nothing to curb this dramatic rise in truancy.

"It is only a question of time before a child gets hurt at one of these demonstrations."

Several teenagers were among the estimated 80 protesters who took to Princes Street on Thursday.

The force said it was difficult to estimate just how many people were expected at Saturday's protest.

Police officer watching demonstrators
Police are worried about public safety

Similar anti-war marches are due to be held across other parts of Scotland.

The campaign group, Coalition for Justice not War, declared Thursday and Saturday days of action.

The group urged schoolchildren, students and workers to hold a minute's silence "mourning" for peace at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

In the Scottish Parliament MSPs staged a 90-second silence during a debate on old age pensioners, in memory of all those who have died so far in the Iraq war.

A total of 16 members took part in the demonstration, as did four people in the public gallery.

MSPs' participation

Among those participating were Scottish Socialist Party leader Tommy Sheridan, Labour backbenchers John McAllion and Elaine Smith and independent MSPs Dennis Canavan and Dorothy Grace-Elder.

All 11 Scottish National Party MSPs in the debating chamber at the time also stood to observe the silence.

No reference was made to the protesters by deputy presiding officer Murray Tosh during the demonstration and the debate continued after they sat down.

The coalition has also called on supporters to contact their friends, MSPs or First Minister Jack McConnell with details of Saturday's march and to place a lit candle in their windows on Thursday evening.

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