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Indonesian Anti-War Protesters Stage Massive Demonstration - 2003-03-30


In Indonesia, tens of thousands of people took part in the biggest protest in the country since the start of the U.S.-led war in Iraq.

Demonstrators brought traffic to a halt on a 10-lane boulevard in Central Jakarta. They carried signs declaring the United States a terrorist nation and President Bush a war criminal.

The huge crowd gathered outside the British Embassy then marched to the United Nations offices and from there to the American Embassy.

They were joined by a handful of moderate Islamic leaders, including the speaker of the national assembly, Amien Rais, who is the former head of one of the country's largest Islamic groups. Mr. Rais called Mr. Bush "evil" and a "terrorist."

Hundreds of police were deployed outside the U.S. Embassy in case of violence, but no incidents were reported.

Demonstrations have taken place in the Indonesian capital every day, since the war began. But unlike some of the demonstrations against bombing of Afghanistan, the marches have been peaceful.

Sunday's protest was the largest so far in Indonesia, which has the world's largest Muslim population.

From the beginning of the war in Iraq, the government of President Megawati Sukarnoputri has been a vocal opponent. Ms. Megawati has also called on the U.N. Security Council to take steps to end the war as soon as possible.

Indonesia's foreign minister says the government is keeping up the diplomatic push to end the war. Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda said Saturday that Indonesia would look for support from other developing nations.

Some groups in Indonesia have threatened to boycott products made in the United States because of the war. A few American fast-food restaurants have been forced to shut for a few hours because of protests, but there are no signs of any major boycotts.