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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 15:09 GMT
Why is Greenpeace against war?
By Ian Youngs
BBC News Online

Two Greenpeace protesters marked the first anniversary of the war in Iraq by climbing Big Ben's tower in London on Saturday - but why is an environmental organisation so involved in the anti-war movement?

Greenpeace protestors with a banner up Big Ben
What's war got to do with whales?
Greenpeace says it exists because "this fragile earth deserves a voice" and its main campaigns - such as stopping climate change, saving whales and protecting ancient forests - are mainly aimed at environmental threats.

But the "green" and the "peace" are still intrinsically linked for the group.

"We think peace is a pre-condition for environmental protection, and vice versa," says Pascal Husting, who co-ordinated Greenpeace's activities for the anniversary of the war.

Greenpeace was founded in 1971 by activists who wanted to avert nuclear testing in Alaska. And for the group, the current anti-war protests are consistent with this conviction that armament is no way to ensure global security.

On top of that, its activists believe that the war was waged to get Iraq's oil reserves - and they are against fossil fuels as part of their campaign on climate change.

Greenpeace campaigners allegedly chained themselves to tanks and trucks awaiting transportation to the Gulf at Marchwood Military Ports in Southampton on 3 February last year
Protesters targeted tanks last year
In common with other groups who marched on Saturday, Greenpeace protesters believe that the war was illegal and set "a dangerous precedent" for the future.

"To say that Greenpeace is a peace organisation would probably not be true, but the peace component is still very important," Mr Husting says.

The Big Ben protest has been one of Greenpeace's most visible anti-war activities, but there have been many others in the UK and around the world.

In February 2003, five protesters chained themselves to Gulf-bound tanks at the Marchwood Military Ports near Southampton. A month later, a Greenpeace hot air balloon dropped 500 "no war" leaflets on RAF Fairford.

We still have a very important line that says we are not taking sides in wars
Pascal Husting
But the organisation is not part of the Stop the War Coalition, an umbrella for scores of groups that have an anti-war stance, and the organiser of the big protest marches.

Greenpeace wants to keep its distance from some of the more extreme messages from those groups because although it is anti-war, it must be unbiased if a war takes place.

"We still have a very important line that says we are not taking sides in wars," Mr Husting says. "We want to prevent wars - what we want to say is 'war is not the way to security'."

Anti-GM protest
A more familiar Greenpeace protest
The Stop the War Coalition says it welcomes all-comers to its protests, and its members include local peace groups as well as school, university and religious associations.

But it also spans 14 national trade unions, the Green Party and groups such as Ravers Against The War and the Surrey Anarchist Group.

"The reason this organisation is so big is because you don't have to be overtly political to be anti-war," says Stop the War spokeswoman Gharda Razuki.

Members of an Eton College society and a group called Masturbate for Peace were among the more unlikely marchers on their demonstrations, she added.

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