From Seoul to Santiago, protesters turn out for rallies against Iraq war

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 30, 2003

BERLIN (AP) - Anti-war demonstrators turned out in the thousands from South Korea to Chile on Saturday, spattering streets with paint, jeering outside U.S. embassies and in one case forming a 31-mile human chain.

More than 100,000 people protested in strongly anti-war Germany, half of them at a rally in Berlin, where banners in the crowd read ''Stop America's Terror.'' About 30,000 people held hands along the 31 miles between the northwestern cities of Muenster and Osnabrueck - a route used by negotiators who brought the Thirty Years War to an end in 1648.

Hundreds of women, some carrying placards declaring ''the United States and Britain are the axis of evil,'' protested in San'a, Yemen. Elsewhere in the Arab world, 10,000 turned out at a rally organized by Egypt's ruling party in Port Said, and in Amman, Jordan, more than 3,000 people demanded the kingdom's government expel U.S. troops.

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In Stuttgart, Germany, about 6,000 protesters encircled the U.S. military's European Command, releasing blue balloons adorned with white doves as they joined hands to form a chain.

Farther north, police detained 100 demonstrators taking part in a sit-down protest outside the main gate of the Rhine-Main Air Base near Frankfurt, a key transit point for U.S. military traffic to the Persian Gulf and Afghanistan.

Protesters in Rome hung black mourning banners from the city's bridges. At Vicenza, in northeastern Italy, demonstrators threw red paint and flares at the walls of a U.S. military base where hundreds of paratroopers now in northern Iraq had been based.

In Athens, Greece, 15,000 people chanting ''We'll stop the war'' marched to the U.S. Embassy. Protesters splashed red paint on the road outside the building and on the windows of a McDonald's restaurant.

Barbed-wire roadblocks and riot police kept thousands of Bangladeshi protesters away from the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka. The demonstrators burned a U.S. flag and an effigy of President Bush.

Police in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, used tear gas to break up a protest outside the Australian Embassy, whose country has about 2,000 soldiers in the coalition.

Students in South Korea's capital, Seoul, scuffled with riot police as thousands marched down half of an eight-lane boulevard chanting ''Stop the bombing! Stop the killing!''

The mood was more subdued in Britain, where public sentiment had been strongly against the government's participation in the U.S.-led coalition before the outbreak of fighting but appears to be swinging. A MORI poll released Friday put Prime Minister Tony Blair's popularity rating at its highest level in nine months.

Turnout out at a series of British rallies was a tiny fraction of protests before the war. Still, activists vowed to keep marching to demand Blair pull British troops out of Iraq.

''We didn't stop the war starting, but we can still stop its progress. I think this is going to become the next Vietnam,'' said Rebecca Mordan, 26, an actress who took part in a rally of about 100 people in London.

Poland, which committed up to 200 soldiers to the war, saw its largest demonstration yet. Two thousand mostly young people marched to the U.S. Embassy in Warsaw, banging drums and chanting ''No blood for oil.'' They called President Aleksander Kwasniewski and Prime Minister Leszek Miller ''Bush's two dogs.''

In Hungary, another nation whose government has supported the war, about 2,000 people whistled and jeered as they marched past the U.S. and British embassies in Budapest on their way to parliament.

A crowd estimated at 6,000 people demonstrated in front of the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.

More than 10,000 people marched in Paris, watched by 5,000 police. The demonstration turned violent when about 20 youths attacked a couple angry about protesters carrying posters of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. Both were treated for bruises by rescue workers.

Around 8,000 people marched in Dublin to criticize the Irish government's decision to let U.S. forces bound for Iraq use the country's Shannon Airport for refueling and stopovers.

In Santiago, Chile, more than 3,000 people staged a peaceful march, and in Caracas, Venezuela, about 100 people called for an end to the war.

''The war is illegal,'' said Jose Luis Lucena, 24, a student in Caracas. ''Those wretched gringos decided to leapfrog the U.N.'s authority. The world told them no and they didn't listen. I hope they pay dearly.''