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 Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 15:55 GMT
Anti-war protesters take to the streets
A young girl protesting in Rawalpindi
Many children joined rallies in Pakistan
Mass rallies are taking place around the world to show opposition to any war against Iraq.

Washington protesters
Banging the drum of peace in Washington
Demonstrations in Japan were followed by protests in Pakistan, the Middle East and Russia. Others are taking place in Europe and the United States.

One of the biggest protests is planned for Washington - the seat of President Bush's administration which is threatening war if Iraq does not disarm.

But the UN chief weapons inspector, Hans Blix, complained on Saturday that Iraq was still not giving his team "genuine co-operation" as they searched for weapons of mass destruction.

Growing momentum

Momentum towards war has been growing, with both the US and its main ally Britain sending tens of thousands of troops to the Gulf, and putting others on standby.

19 Jan - Blix meets top Iraqi officials in Baghdad
27 Jan - First full report on inspections presented to UN
29 Jan - UN discusses report
31 Jan - Bush meets Blair
15 Feb - Anti-war protests across Europe
27 Mar - Blix submits new report to UN

The sight of departing warships has been concentrating minds, say protest organisers, as well as the prospect of next week's report by the UN inspectors which could provide a trigger for war.

Mara Verheyden-Hilliard, a Washington lawyer and protest organiser, said: "Bush has said he intends to launch a pre-emptive war, and now he's facing the most formidable obstacle, which is a pre-emptive anti-war movement."

Protest leaders in the US want to generate the kind of opposition that was expressed against the Vietnam War 30 years ago.

Elsewhere, much anger was aimed at the US itself.

  • In Moscow, there were reminders of the Cold War with Soviet-era music providing the background to a demonstration outside the US embassy by about 1,000 Communist supporters
  • Thousands of people joined an anti-war march in Paris
  • In Germany, peace protesters marched through the cities of Rostock and Tuebingen
  • A few hundred protesters in Cairo defied a ban on political rallies to condemn any military attack on Iraq, which many felt could have repercussions across the Middle East
  • In Damascus, a rally by tens of thousands of people criticised US belligerence and Washington's support for Israel
  • Hundreds of schoolchildren joined protesters in the Pakistani capital Islamabad to try to form a human chain to Rawalpindi, 10 kilometres (six miles) away
  • More than 4,000 people attended a peace concert in Tokyo - the largest of about 10 demonstrations in Japan

Later on Saturday:

  • Protesters in Washington were planning to march to a naval base to demand to inspect US weapons of mass destruction
  • Hollywood stars will front expected crowds of up to 50,000 in San Francisco
  • Several British cities will hold candlelit vigils

Baghdad talks

Mr Blix and the head of the UN's nuclear agency, Mohammad ElBaradei, are due in Baghdad on Sunday for two days of talks before completing their submission to the UN.

Suspect warhead found in Iraq
12 warheads impounded
Iraq says they are old artillery rockets
UN testing them for chemical weapons traces

They have said they plan to confront Iraqi officials with big gaps in the 12,000-page weapons declaration that Iraq submitted to the UN in December.

"There has been prompt access. There has been access everywhere. That is fine. But on substance there has not been sufficient co-operation," Mr Blix said in Cyprus ahead of his crucial visit to Baghdad.

"We need to have sincere and genuine co-operation."

He said he would impress on the Iraqis the "seriousness" of failing to help his inspectors.

The Security Council passed a resolution in November ordering Iraq to prove it had no weapons of mass destruction.

Key UN report

US officials appear to be withholding any new demands for war until after the weapons inspectors make their formal report on 27 January.

Anti-war demonstrators in Tokyo
Protesters in Tokyo said the US must not jump into war
Other members of the UN Security Council have warned against jumping to conclusions.

On Saturday, the inspectors visited at least seven sites, including an army depot south of Baghdad where they found empty chemical warheads last week.

Iraq said the weapons had been declared to the UN, but White House spokesman Ari Fleischer described the find as "troubling and serious".

Graphic on chemical warheads find

  The BBC's Jim Fish
"It will take more than protests to stop the movement of troops"

Key stories





See also:

18 Jan 03 | Americas
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
16 Jan 03 | Politics
14 Jan 03 | Americas
17 Jan 03 | Politics
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
18 Jan 03 | South Asia
18 Jan 03 | Middle East
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