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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 07:32 GMT
Sydney rallies against war on Iraq
Boy flashes peace sign as protesters march with placards in Sydney
Australians are cynical about US intentions in Iraq
Hundred of thousands of people are attending a huge protest against a possible US-led war in Iraq in the Australian city of Sydney.

We want our prime minister to listen to us, we don't want war with Iraq

Thomas Aiken, Sydney, Australia
It is the latest in a series of an estimated 600 peace rallies around the world this weekend which around eight million people so far have attended.

Saturday saw massive marches in New York, Rome, London, Paris, Berlin and many other cities worldwide.

The Australian Government strongly backs US President George W Bush's tough line on Iraq.

But the Sydney protest is the largest seen in the city since the days of the Vietnam War in the late 1960s, and the BBC correspondent there says there is deep cynicism among the crowds about American intentions in pursuing Saddam Hussein.

Howard unmoved

An estimated 250,000 people are thought to be present at Sydney's march, with marchers - many middle-aged with children - waving banners, banging drums and chanting protest songs.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard
I don't know that you can measure public opinion just by the number of people who turn up to demonstrations

Australian Prime Minister John Howard
"We want our prime minister to listen to us, we don't want war with Iraq," marcher Thomas Aitken told Reuters news agency.

Mr Howard returned from Indonesia on Sunday, where he had reiterated his support for military action against Iraq.

He remained resolute in his support of the US-British tough stance on the use of force against Saddam Hussein's regime , dismissing the demonstrations as not reflective of public opinion.

"I don't know that you can measure public opinion just by the number of people who turn up to demonstrations," he told an Australian television channel.

Mr Howard is also being confronted with protests in Brisbane, Darwin and Adelaide on Sunday.

'Not too late'

An estimated one million people marched in London on Saturday to show opposition to Prime Minister Tony Blair, who - like Australia's John Howard - is a close ally of President Bush.

Open in new window : Anti-war protests
Your protest pictures from around the world

The weekend of demonstrations come after Friday's UN Security Council session, where chief weapons inspector Hans Blix issued a largely positive assessment of the UN's disarmament process in Iraq.

Addressing a massive crowd in Hyde Park, London mayor Ken Livingstone said: "This is all Britain standing together regardless of age, race or sex".

"This war is solely about oil. George Bush has never given a damn about human rights," he said.

The protesters marched under a sea of multi-coloured banners and slogans such as "No War On Iraq" and "Make Tea, Not War".

UK Prime Minister Tony Blair has suffered a fall in popularity following his staunch support of US plans to launch military action against Saddam Hussein.

In New York, celebrities and activists such as Susan Sarandon, Danny Glover, South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu and black activist Angela Davis attended a peace rally near the United Nations headquarters.

Mr Tutu, addressing an estimated crowd of at least 100,000 people, said that those who wished to wage war on Iraq "must know it would be an immoral war".

Middle East anger

Demonstrations were also held in cities across the Middle East, including Israel, and in East Asia on Saturday.

Young South Korean girl blows bubble in front of anti-war poster
Hundreds of demonstrators hit the streets of Seoul, South Korea
In a rare sign of unity, 3,000 Jews and Arabs marched together in Tel Aviv.

Officials reported at least one million people marched in the streets of Baghdad, while in the Syrian capital of Damascus more than 200,000 people marched, with one banner carrying the slogan "Axis of Evil: America, Britain, Israel".

In Seoul - capital of South Korea, one of the staunchest US allies in Asia - hundreds of demonstrators rallied, shouting chants such as "Bush, Terrorist!" and carrying banners urging "Drop Bush, not bombs".

In Malaysia - a predominantly Muslim state - hundreds demonstrated outside the US embassy in Kuala Lumpur, despite a police ban on the demonstration.

Officers eventually persuaded the crowd to move on peacefully while colleagues in riot gear stood by.

And in Thailand about 2,000 people - mostly Muslims - rallied in front of the US and UK embassies in the capital on Saturday.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Dominic Hughes
"This is a huge show of strength by the Australian public"

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15 Feb 03 | Middle East
15 Feb 03 | Americas
14 Feb 03 | Asia-Pacific
15 Feb 03 | Middle East
14 Feb 03 | Entertainment
14 Feb 03 | Entertainment
16 Feb 03 | Middle East
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