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EDITIONS
 Sunday, 19 January, 2003, 04:50 GMT
Peace protesters stage UK vigils
Stop the War Coalition supporters
Thousands joined the demonstrations across UK
Peace campaigners have held a series of protests across the UK as part of a global show of opposition to an impending war with Iraq.

Thousands took to the streets for peaceful marches in Liverpool, Cardiff and Bradford.

And a separate demonstration took place at a military base in Northwood, west London.

Candlelit vigils took place on Saturday evening in cities including London, Birmingham and Nottingham to coincide with a massive Stop the War rally in Washington DC.

Everybody is coming together to make a stance against this war

Carole Norton
CND national chairman

More than 50,000 American protesters gathered in Washington for what they and demonstrators in San Francisco say was one of the largest anti-war demonstrations since Vietnam.

The protests come as the US administration says it has become "increasingly clear" that Iraq is not disarming.

UK Foreign Office minister Mike O'Brien said the government understood people's caution about going to war.

"After all the objective of our policy is to get Saddam Hussein to disarm without going to war if he will allow us to do so".

But, he warned, if Iraq were allowed to hold on to weapons of mass destruction other states would follow, making the world a much more dangerous place.

'Making a stand'

In Bradford police said at least 2,000 people attended an anti-war protest, including the Bishop of Bradford, the Right Reverend David James.

Neil Kingsnorch, of Yorkshire CND, said there were 3,000 people present, making it the biggest peace rally in the city's memory.

Carole Norton, CND's national chairman, said: "Everybody is coming together to make a stance against this war."

In Liverpool police estimated 2,500 people gathered in the city centre, including trade unionists, pro-Palestine groups and an Irish marching band.

Northwood protester
Northwood attracted protests
Sheila Walsh, of the Liverpool Friends of Palestine, said the strong turnout demonstrated the strength of feeling "against this war which we are being dragged into."

Some bystanders disagreed. Jim Doyle, 48, of Anfield, said: "It's OK to make a stand but sometimes war has to be done."

In Cardiff city centre, the estimated number of people marching varied between 500 and 1,500.

A man and woman were arrested and cautioned but police said the march had otherwise been peaceful.

Capital vigil

About 200 people gathered in Trafalgar Square in London to hear former Labour MP Tony Benn speak out against war at a candle-lit peace vigil.

The Metropolitan Police had earlier warned the vigil organised by the Bar Human Rights Committee, might not be able to go ahead because of safety concerns.

Mr Benn told the crowd: ""What we're about is trying to prevent a war that will kill hundreds of thousands of people many of them children... it would be done without the authority of the UN and without people being asked."

Tony Benn at an anti-war rally
Benn has denounced war with Iraq

One of the vigil co-ordinators, Grassroots peace activist Julie Bullen, said: "Even CIA experts say that this war will only further the cause of groups like al-Qaeda and actually increase the threat of terrorism."

At Northwood military base near London - the British armed forces headquarters - 200 protesters from peace group Voices in the Wilderness UK staged a mass defiance of the Official Secrets Act by taking photographs of the site.

Police described it as a peaceful demonstration.

A 67-year-old woman was arrested over a previous incident at the base but later released without charge.

Protesters plan to return on Sunday for a mass blockade aimed at closing the base.

In Glasgow, the Scottish Coalition for Justice Not War held a peace conference ahead of a bigger rally next month.

More than a 1,000 people from across the Irish Republic converged on Shannon airport to protest against the use of the airport to refuel American military planes.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  Linguistic philosopher Noam Chomsky
"The disparity of forces is so extraordinary it's likely to be a slaughter"
  Former Labour MP Tony Benn
"You cannot take a nation to war unless it is united"
  William Shawcross, writer and broadcaster
"If we walk away, the consequences will be terrifying"

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