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Last Updated: Friday, 23 February 2007, 17:06 GMT
Iraq mothers camp outside No 10
Janet Lowrie, Peggie Preston and Rose Gentle on the way to Downing Street
Mrs Lowrie and Mrs Gentle helped Peggie Preston into Downing Street
Mothers of soldiers killed in Iraq have set up camp outside Downing Street and handed in a letter calling for a meeting with Tony Blair.

Rose Gentle, whose 19-year-old son Gordon was killed in Basra in 2004, said: "A lot of families have questions that need answering".

She is among those sleeping in a tent on Whitehall until Sunday morning.

On Saturday the Stop the War Coalition will hold rallies in London and Glasgow calling for all troops to be withdrawn.

Mrs Gentle and Janet Lowrie were heading up the small protest, which was sandwiched between about 80 noisy campaigners calling for an end to "Ethiopian aggression in Somalia".

Mr Blair should come and speak to us. If he can speak to film stars that are in town he can speak to us
Rose Gentle

Mrs Gentle told the BBC News website that more protesters were expected to join them over the weekend.

But, on her sixth visit to try to get a meeting with Mr Blair, she did not have much hope of getting one.

"We think he should show a wee bit of respect to the families," said Mrs Gentle, from Glasgow.

"He has refused to meet me."

Better healthcare

Referring to the prime minister's recent meeting with Big Brother star Shilpa Shetty, Mrs Gentle said: "Mr Blair should come and speak to us. If he can speak to film stars that are in town he can speak to us."

She would like the troops to be withdrawn from Iraq, for proper equipment for those who are serving out there and for better healthcare for those who have returned.

Joining Mrs Gentle and Mrs Lowrie was veteran peace protester Peggie Preston, 83, who lives in central London.

Rose Gentle in a tent
Mrs Gentle said more protesters were expected over the weekend

Although she was in the WAAF in World War II, she has been a peace campaigner for years and visited Iraq during the first Gulf War.

She said it had been "wonderful" to go into Downing Street, but she would not be camping out: "I used to do it, I used to be involved in all things like that but I can't walk properly [now]".

A No 10 spokesman said there was nothing to add to Tony Blair's announcement that 1,600 UK troops would return from Iraq within a few months.

He said Mr Blair would be staying at his Chequers country residence at the weekend so would not be able to meet the group.

'Private matters'

"Mr Blair will have written personally to all of them," he added.

"The letters are private matters between them and the prime minister."

On Saturday afternoon, the group will join a demonstration march from Hyde Park to Trafalgar Square.

Protesters are calling for all British troops to be withdrawn from Iraq as well as an end to plans to replace Trident nuclear weapons.

On Wednesday, Mr Blair told MPs that some 1,600 British troops would return from Iraq within the next few months.

He said the 7,100 serving troops would be cut to 5,500 soon, with hopes that 500 more will leave by late summer.

Asked about the announcement, Mrs Gentle said: "I thought it was good news, it's a start, hopefully."

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