world against the war
leads demos across globe; Blix heads for Iraq as threat of conflict grows; Blair
tries to calm rebels
Andy McSmith, Political Editor
to Alternative Reader Index
In the biggest day of protest the world has yet seen against a war in Iraq, from
Washington to Tokyo, Liverpool to Damascus, hundreds of thousands of
demonstrators across four continents took to the streets yesterday.
The US was the scene of the biggest anti-war demonstration of George Bush's
presidency, with tens of thousands of people braving freezing weather to join
protests in Washington, San Francisco and other cities, despite the
near-unanimous support for war on Capitol Hill and in the US media.
There was also a series of smaller anti-war demonstration in Great Britain,
including a two-hour protest outside the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the
British Armed Forces in Northwood, north London. There were anti-war rallies or
vigils in Bradford, Bristol, Hereford, Liverpool and Glasgow.
There were similar demonstrations across France and Germany, in Russia, Ireland,
New Zealand, Japan, Pakistan and in the Middle East. One of the largest was in
the Syrian capital, Damascus.
The protests were made against the background of a continuous build-up of troops
in the Gulf, and renewed political pressure on the Iraqi government to surrender
any weapons of mass destruction.
General Richard Myers, chairman of the US Military Joint Chiefs of Staff, said
in Rome that the build-up to war was "totally reversible."
"The key to that is the Iraqi regime itself," he added. "They
hold the keys to whether or not there's going to be conflict."
This was reinforced by a warning from United Nations weapons inspectors that
they expected more cooperation from the Iraqi government.
The chief UN inspector, Hans Blix, and International Atomic Energy Agency
director-general, Mohamed El Baradei, are due in Baghdad today for two days of
Mr Blix, in Cyprus yesterday after meeting the Prime Minister, Tony Blair, at
Chequers, said: "There has been access everywhere. But on substance
there has not been sufficient cooperation. We need to have sincere and genuine
The two officials are due to make their report to the UN Security Council on 27
January. Tony Blair has emphasised that this is not a "deadline" and
may not be the end of the inspection process.
Mr Blair is under growing domestic pressure, particularly from within the Labour
Party, not to involve the UK in a pre-emptive strike against Iraq. Members of
Labour's ruling national executive are hoping to push through a resolution at
its meeting on 28 January, calling on the UK government not to involve British
troops in a war unless it has been directly sanctioned by the UN Security
Privately, British ministers are confident that the UN will pass a second
resolution condemning Iraq if its government is found to be concealing weapons
of mass destruction. British diplomatic activity has been aimed at persuading
the US government not to act alone.
Jack Straw will visit New York tomorrow for talks with other foreign ministers
about combating terrorism, and will return to the US on Wednesday to meet the
Secretary of State, Colin Powell. Tony Blair meets George Bush at Camp David on
Iraq has also been conducting a diplomatic campaign to win sympathy across the
Muslim world. The Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Tariq Aziz, met Libya's President
Muammar Gaddafi yesterday as part of a week-long North African tour. He left
Libya shortly before the arrival of Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who is also
seeking a way to avoid war.
The US anti-war movement has attracted support from Vietnam veterans and
celebrities including the civil rights leader Jesse Jackson and the actor Martin
Sheen. British campaigners include the veteran politician Tony Benn, writers
Salman Rushdie and Iain Banks, and actresses Julie Christie and Juliet
2002 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd
January 19, 2003
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