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Last Updated:  Monday, 3 March, 2003, 18:04 GMT
Human shield Britons 'keen to stay'
Some of the 'human shield' Britons are thinking of leaving
Iraqi officials want to control which sites are guards, say UK protesters
Talks are continuing with Iraqi officials in an effort to allow UK members of a human shield to protect key public buildings, BBC News Online has been told.

Some of the Truth Justice Peace Human Shield Action Group have already begun the journey home, after leaders in Baghdad began to dictate which sites should be "guarded".

But Sue Darling, a spokeswoman for the anti-war contingent of 12 Britons still in Baghdad, said many were staying.

Ms Darling, who is monitoring the group's work from nearby Jordan, admitted some of the group had been "disappointed" by the prescriptive approach laid down by Iraq.

She told BBC News Online: "We are continuing to have talks because many people wanted to protect hospitals."

It seems to me that what is being suggested is appalling beyond normal boundaries
Sue Darling, human shield protestor

However, Ms Darling, a diplomat for more than 20 years, stressed the group was not being ordered around.

"The Iraqi regime has recognised everyone is risking their lives by coming out here to protest against a war," she said.

"But it has got to the stage where they want people to go to named sites or, instead, they would prefer us to go home.

"People have a free choice, they can choose - it is not a case of Iraq saying 'Tomorrow you will go to this site'."

Individual missions

Iraq argues the campaigners are only welcome at key infrastructure sites supplying water, oil, food and power.

But many of the British party are also keen to take their protest to hospitals and school buildings.

Ms Darling said: "When we started, even though we were a disparate group there was a common aim.

"However, what has become clear is that there are a lot of individual missions."

Encouraging a "mass migration" of thousands of protesters to Iraq simply had not happened, she admitted.

The group hoped to surround sites in Iraq with thousands of anti-war demonstrators.

If successful, they hoped to make it politically risky for Tony Blair and George Bush to carry out military action - knowing their own citizens were at risk.

Despite the breakdown of such ambitious plans, the campaigners' anger at impending military conflict is still evident.

"I am actually a political virgin and this is the first time I have taken action of this nature," Ms Darling said.

"However, it seems to me that what is being suggested is appalling beyond normal boundaries."

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