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Friday, 27 September, 2002, 13:51 GMT 14:51 UK
Anti-war protesters to stage rally
Anti-war demonstration
Campaigners say support for the rally is growing
Peace campaigners are to gather in London this weekend for an anti-war rally in protest against Prime Minister Tony Blair' stance on Iraq.

Organisers predict Saturday afternoon's march will be the biggest demonstration of its kind Western Europe has seen in years with more than 100,000 people expected to take part.

We want to stop an unjust and brutal war against Iraq

Mike Marqusee
Stop the War Coalition

The Stop the War Coalition and Muslim Association of Britain argue that public opposition to military action has escalated following the publication of the dossier of evidence against Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The document released on Tuesday claimed Iraq had a continuing programme of chemical and biological weapons and had tried to acquire nuclear material from Africa.

The protest comes as a US envoy went on a mission to France and Russia to seek support for a UN resolution on Iraq drafted by the US and Britain.

The draft is believed to contain clauses that could provide legal backing for possible military action on Iraq.

Speakers line-up

Mike Marqusee, of the Stop the War Coalition, told BBC News Online: "We have been inundated with messages of support since Tuesday.

"It is clear Tony Blair's dossier has increased the numbers coming on this demonstration."

And he said the purpose of the march was clear.

Open in new window : March route
Saturday's demonstration in London

"We want to stop an unjust and brutal war against Iraq," he said.

Fellow campaigner Chris Oneham added: "We hope there will be a display of strength of feeling to persuade Tony Blair and the rest of the Labour Party to end their support for Bush's war."

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

Civilian deaths

Osama Saeed, spokesman for the Muslim Association of Britain, dismissed the government's dossier as "a lot of hyperbole" containing no new information.

"On the eve of the Labour Party Conference we will say that we don't support proposed action in Iraq and the current policy in Palestine," he said.

Support for the demonstration went across religions, the political spectrum and age groups, he argued.

"The Iraqi people have been impoverished by decades of sanctions.

"Bombing and the inevitable result of more civilian deaths will not bring justice to the Iraqi people," he said.

March criticised

But Labour MP George Foulkes, a former international development minister, described the demonstration as "pointless".

"Nobody wants war, but it is necessary for the government to keep all options open, including the military option, to ensure that the murdering Iraqi dictator is disarmed".

The MP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley said Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had confirmed there would be a "substantive" Commons vote on troop deployment.

"And the government, by working through the United Nations, has taken away the other plank of their argument," he said.

The march is due to start on the Embankment at 1300 BST and go past Parliament, up Whitehall before a rally in Hyde Park.

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

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

The BBC's Niall Dickson
"Dissenters say it is time for their voice to be heard"

Key stories

The 'evidence'


Iraq peace march: Do you support it?



16424 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

27 Sep 02 | Americas
02 Mar 02 | England
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