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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 25 September, 2002, 13:04 GMT 14:04 UK
'Thousands to join anti-war rally'
anti war campaigners
Anti-war campaigners say the rally will be huge
London will host the biggest anti-war rally Europe has seen for decades on Saturday, peace campaigners are predicting.

Organisers of the march will not forecast how many people will join the protest but argue it will show growing opposition to Tony Blair's stance.

The message will go out all over the world that Tony Blair does not speak for ordinary people in this country

Jeremy Corbyn

With the government's dossier of evidence on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons programme now published, ministers say threatening force is the only way to resolve the Iraqi crisis peacefully.

But the Stop the War Coalition and Muslim Association of Britain, organisers of the rally, say the dossier has increased public opposition to possible war.

US concerns?

Rebel Labour MP Jeremy Corbyn described the dossier as "a lot of recycled rubbish and a lot of conjecture".

"Our demonstration on Saturday will be absolutely massive and the message will go out all over the world that Tony Blair does not speak for ordinary people in this country," he said.

"He speaks for the relationship with George Bush."

Labour MP George Galloway
George Galloway predicted American deaths

The march will start on Embankment and go past Parliament, up Whitehall before a rally in Hyde Park.

Among the speakers due to address the rally are London Mayor Ken Livingstone, ex-MP Tony Benn, former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter and Peter Price, the Bishop of Bath and Wells.

Mike Marqusee, from the Stop The War Coalition, said the demonstration would unite people from all walks of life and religions.

"This will be one of the largest anti-war demonstrations seen in Europe in decades," said Mr Marqusee.

March numbers

The event would send an "unequivocal warning" to Tony Blair and George Bush, he said, accusing those threatening military action of hypocrisy because of Israel's continued breach of UN resolutions.

Mr Marqusee would not put a figure on how many people he expected to join the march.

But he said twice as many coaches had already been booked from outside London for the event as were used for the anti-war rally last November.

The Stop The War coalition claims that rally against the Afghanistan war attracted 100,000 people, although police estimated the figure at nearer 15,000.

The organisers are dismissing possible comparisons with last weekend's Countryside March, which attracted about 400,000 people.

Body bags warning

That was better funded, brought together a range of grievances and was given almost free advertising by newspapers, said Mr Corbyn.

He added: "The Countryside Alliance is an unsustainable coalition.

"There are issues of rural poverty, but we are interested in peace, which affects everybody."

Earlier, Labour MP George Galloway, a fervent critic of possible military action, courted controversy with comments about possible US casualties.

"If Bush lands half-a-million boots in Iraq, attached only to American feet and cheered only by General Ariel Sharon, he will end up marching through hell and many a Yankee Doodle Dandy will be going home in a plastic suit," said Mr Galloway.

The MP predicted the Middle East would erupt like "molten lava" if Iraq was invaded.

At a news conference about the rally, Mr Corbyn said he had not heard Mr Galloway's comments.

But he stressed: "Nobody is looking forward to any casualties. Any death is a disaster."


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 VOTE RESULTS
Is the Iraq dossier a compelling case?

Yes
 35.17% 

No
 64.83% 

38431 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion


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See also:

25 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Mar 02 | England
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