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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 19 February, 2003, 23:31 GMT
UK activist defies Iraq advice
Anti-war protesters
There have been anti-war protests around the world

A British peace activist who has travelled to Iraq to act as a human shield in the event of hostilities says he will not be put off by official advice to leave the region.

The United Kingdom Foreign Office has advised any British nationals still in Iraq to leave the country immediately because of increased tension in the region.

People are also being warned not to go to Kuwait and dependants of British Embassy staff there are to return to the UK.

The few British citizens remaining in Iraq are mainly journalists, aid workers and women married to Iraqi men who have been in the country for many years.

But Joe Letts, from Dorset, is among an international group of activists who arrived in Iraq on two red London double-decker buses and declared themselves ready to be human shields.

Increased tensions

Mr Letts said he would not be leaving Iraq as a result of the Foreign Office warning.

"We didn't come here to die, we came here to try to prevent this unjust war," he told the BBC.

"Naturally we'll be very worried about this latest increase in tensions which, as far as I know, has not been generated by the Iraqis but by the Americans and the British."

Joe Letts
This is a great wrong. This is the great wrong of our time
Joe Letts
Mr Letts also questioned the timing of the travel advice and the reasons behind it.

"I think it is going to be difficult for Prime Minister Blair and President Bush to bomb their own nationals when their own nationals have advertised their exact whereabouts," he said.

The campaigners travelled 3,000 miles to get to Iraq, arriving a few days after around one million people took to the streets in London to march against a war.

"Almost everybody is against this war," said Mr Letts.

"I don't think anybody is upset with what we're doing.

"The people who are trying to create the war are a very very tiny minority and quite honestly I cannot understand what motivates them.

"Their policies against the Iraqi people are brutal and it makes me angry - angry enough to stand here with them, despite the consequences.

"I've found myself propelled into it, I can't walk away from that."





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The BBC's Polly Billington
"If you're in Iraq, you should leave immediately"




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