Sunday, 16 March 2008

Thousands take part in anti-war protests

A demonstrator joins thousands of people as they protest in London to mark the fifth anniversary of the Iraq war.

Thousands of anti-war protesters have marched in Britain and the United States to mark the fifth anniversary of the start of the war in Iraq.

They took to the streets in London and the Scottish city of Glasgow, demanding that British troops pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan.

A spokesman for the Stop The War coalition, which organised the marches, says five years after the invasion of Iraq, the world had become "a much more dangerous place."

"Estimates suggest as many as one million people have died violent deaths as a result of the occupation of Iraq," spokesman Paul Collins said.

He said Prime Minister Gordon Brown was sending more troops to Afghanistan and claimed "this hidden war is fast becoming a disaster mirroring Iraq."

But the Foreign Office disputed Stop the War's conclusions.

"In Iraq, there is clear evidence we are making steady progress, particularly in terms of security," a spokesman told Reuters.

"In Afghanistan NATO forces are winning the struggle against the Taliban."

Organisers estimated that the London march had attracted up to 40,000 protesters, although police put the figure at 10,000.

In Glasgow the demonstration attracted several hundred protesters.

US protest

Another protest in the United States has drawn thousands of people, led by veterans from various conflicts, holding coffins draped with the US flag.

Police said about 2,000 protesters, most of them young, marched down Hollywood Boulevard in Los Angeles, denouncing President George W Bush and calling for an end to the conflict.

Organisers put the figure at 10,000, and hope several California politicians and actors will gather for the final part of the march on Sunset Boulevard.

The Australian branch of the Stop The War Coalition is planning a demonstration in Sydney today.

Hundreds rally for Iraq troop withdrawal

ABOUT 200 people rallied in central Sydney yesterday calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Iraq.

Speakers at the rally in Belmore Park, to mark the coming fifth anniversary of the invasion, said the pledge by the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, to withdraw 500 combat troops from Iraq did not go far enough.

A spokesman for the Stop the War Coalition, Alex Bainbridge, said 1 million people had been killed since the war began, and all troops needed to be withdrawn. "This war is a crime, and we need to end it," he told the rally. Mr Rudd also needed to end his support for the war in Afghanistan.

A peace campaigner, Donna Mulhearn, who travelled to Iraq to be a human shield before the war started, said Australia needed to apologise to the Iraqi people. She also questioned whether Australian athletes should compete at the Beijing Olympics after China's crackdown in Tibet.

The Greens senator Kerry Nettle said the Iraq war had a human and financial cost estimated by one US economist at $3 trillion.

Another peace rally was held in Parramatta.

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