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EDITIONS
Saturday, 28 September, 2002, 18:29 GMT 19:29 UK
Protesters stage anti-war rally
Anti-war protest
Organisers estimate 400,000 took part
Tens of thousands of people have taken part in a protest against military action in Iraq which organisers say was one of Europe's biggest anti-war rallies.

Organisers said 400,000 people joined in the march from the Embankment to a rally in Hyde Park on Saturday.


We can't consider murdering another 100,000 Iraqis simply to pursue America's interest in oil

Film director Ken Loach

Police said they had counted more than 150,000 people and there had been two arrests for minor public order offences.

Ministers have said threatening force is the only way to resolve the Iraqi crisis peacefully after the government published its dossier of evidence on Saddam Hussein's alleged weapons programme.

But the rally's organisers, the Stop the War Coalition and Muslim Association of Britain, said this dossier has increased public opposition to war.

Bloodshed warning

Among the rally speakers were London Mayor Ken Livingstone, ex-MP Tony Benn and former United Nations weapons inspector Scott Ritter .

Anti-war demonstrator
Demonstrators attended a Hyde Park rally

The demonstration came as Iraq rejected a proposed new draft resolution which the United States and Britain wanted passed by the United Nations Security Council.

Diplomats at the UN say the resolution would give Iraq seven days to accept unlimited weapons inspections.

Mayor Livingstone told the BBC more than 400,000 people had taken part in the rally on the eve of the Labour Party conference.

"This is the largest march for peace I have seen in 30 years.

"This will have an electrifying effect on the Labour Party conference and on those MPs opposed to war."

Former Labour MP Mr Benn told the crowds: "Nothing can take the British people into a war that they do not accept and do not want.

He said it would be "wholly immoral" for the US and Britain to attack Iraq.

"Although when the bloodshed begins, if it does, criminal responsibility for what has happened will rest with those who have taken that decision, there is a share of responsibility with us as well."

'Clear and present danger'

Anas Altikriti, of the Muslim Association of Britain, told BBC News Online that the demonstration had got its message across peacefully - that campaigners wanted justice for Palestine and no military strike on Iraq.

"Our government is acting in an unethical manner. This has to change," he said.

Labour MP George Galloway
Mr Galloway: Britons do not want war
Film director Ken Loach was among the demonstrators.

He said: "We can't get involved in this war we can't consider murdering another 100,000 Iraqis simply to pursue America's interest in oil and their dominance in the region."

But Yasser Alaskary, of the Iraqi Prospect Organisation, a national group which represents Iraqi youth, said that they did not support the anti-war demonstration.

Instead he said: "We support the removal of Saddam Hussein and are realistic in that this requires external help and a targeted war".

But Labour MP George Galloway, said the message was clear.

"Mr Blair is not going to be speaking in our name if he brings our country into a war.

"That is no way to send our young men and women into a war that might be a fatal confrontation."

He said there was a "clear and present danger" that there might be a war in a few weeks.

And the Labour Party Conference delegates had a duty to take the "ignition keys" away from Mr Blair.

BBC political correspondent Nicholas Jones predicted that the repercussions of the march in London would be felt at the Labour Party's annual conference.

He said that there would be a lot of opposition from delegates to "Britain going it alone" with America in a war against Iraq.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Margaret Gilmore
"They came from every corner of the UK"
Mayor of London Ken Livingstone
"It's the largest march for peace I have seen in 30 years"
Labour MP George Galloway
"I hope Mr Blair is watching and listening"

Key stories

The 'evidence'

IN DEPTH

TALKING POINT
 VOTE RESULTS
Iraq peace march: Do you support it?

Yes
 77.13% 

No
 22.87% 

16424 Votes Cast

Results are indicative and may not reflect public opinion

See also:

28 Sep 02 | Americas
28 Sep 02 | Politics
27 Sep 02 | UK
25 Sep 02 | Politics
02 Mar 02 | England
Internet links:


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