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Anti-War Protesters Fill London Streets

Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters marched in the streets of London to oppose a military strike against Iraq and to support the Palestinian cause. Organizers called it one of Britain's biggest anti-war rallies.

The demonstrators came to London from across Britain and some from as far away as Canada, the United States and Israel.

They marched through central London to Hyde Park to hear speakers denounce Prime Minister Tony Blair and President Bush. Many carried placards demanding that there be no war against Iraq, and in support of the Palestinian cause.

The Muslim Association of Britain and the Stop the War coalition sponsored the demonstration. Organizers said the principle aim was to influence Mr. Blair to reconsider his support of President Bush's tough stand against Iraq and its alleged arms buildup.

Among the demonstrators was Scott Ritter, a U.S. Army veteran of the 1991 Gulf war and a former United Nations arms inspector in Iraq. He says American national security is not threatened by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

"Well, I'm here to wage peace and stop a war that doesn't need to be fought," Mr. Ritter said. "I'm not a pacifist. I have fought in a war before and I will fight in a war again, if the security of the United States is put at risk. But as of yet, no case has been made, based upon substantive fact, that shows that Iraq represents a threat to the United States or to the international community worthy of war."

Another marcher was Hudhaifah Shaker, a British citizen of Iraqi ancestry. He says Iraqis want to be rid of Saddam Hussein, but not through U.S.-led military action.

"Ninety-nine percent of the Iraqis hate Saddam Hussein," he said. "Everyone believes that he's a tyrant. And he is basically a war criminal. And he's responsible for about 1.2 million deaths. So, we are the first people who want to see the back of him. But we are against military action against Iraq because this would result in civilian casualties."

Jeremy Corbin is a member of the British Parliament from Prime Minister Blair's Labor Party. He says a war against Iraq would hurt Iraqi civilians and only benefit big oil companies.

"I hope that our demonstration and demonstrations all around the world will force Blair and Bush to think again," he said. "Hold off. Stop and think of the consequences of unleashing a war in the Middle East and the consequences for the Iraqi people and the people throughout that region."

Many Britons apparently believe the anti-war rally will have little effect on Mr. Blair's thinking. A phone-in survey Saturday by a British television network, Sky News, found that 70 percent of respondents thought the march would not make any difference.