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Sunday, 16 February, 2003, 14:33 GMT
Oxford bishop says 'no war'
London's anti-war march
About one million people marched in London
A Church of England leader who has backed previous British involvement in armed conflicts has praised a mass anti-war rally in London.

About one million protesters marched in central London for Saturday's Stop the War Coalition demonstration.

The Bishop of Oxford, the Right Reverend Richard Harries, has supported British involvement in Afghanistan, the Falklands War, the Kosovo War and the Gulf War in 1991.

But he told the BBC: "I have consistently opposed military action in this case because I dont think the criteria for a just war have been met.

The Bishop of Oxford
Blair was absolutely right over Kosovo, but he is finding himself very isolated at the moment both in this country and in Europe

Bishop of Oxford

Bishop Harries said he was impressed with the people who demonstrated in London "both with the number and the reasons that people were giving for taking part".

The protesters, from all over the country, included 40 coach-loads of people from Oxford.

"What I think was also interesting was that most people were slightly older.

"There were many sober-minded people who are very worried about this war."

But Bishop Harries said he did not think the march would have changed Tony Blair's stance on Iraq.

"Clearly it is a very worrying time for him.

"I really feel for him, I'm a great admirer of his and I think his instincts are right.

"He was absolute right over Kosovo, but he is finding himself very isolated at the moment both in this country and in Europe."

'Unleash evils'

The bishop said wars were justified if they met certain convictions including a just cause, and unsuccessful efforts to resolve the dispute by peaceful means first.

A judgment also had to be made that the war would not "unleash more evils than are already being endured".

Last month, speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme Bishop Harries said war could have "unpredictable consequences" in the Middle East and an "almost certain" rise in terrorism across the world and in the UK.

He said believing that decisive military action could put things right was "a great danger and a fantasy".


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See also:

12 Feb 03 | England
06 Dec 02 | Panorama
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