BERLIN -- Demanding an end to threats of an "unjustified" war against Iraq, thousands gathered in cities across Europe and beyond Saturday to demonstrate their opposition against U.S. policy toward Iraq.
In Berlin, crowds of people brandishing placards that declared "War on the imperialist war," "Stop Bush's campaign" and "No blood for oil," along with a few Iraqi and Palestinian flags, converged on the downtown Alexanderplatz square and marched past the German Foreign Ministry.
Police estimated that as many as 8,000 people took part in damp, windy weather, while organizers put the number at 30,000. No trouble was reported.
Peace activists carry a banner reading 'No Colonial War for Oil' during a demonstration
against a possible war in Iraq Saturday, Oct. 26, 2002 in Freiburg, Germany. (AP
Photo/ Winfried Rothermel)
Some 1,500 people turned out in Frankfurt and another 500 in Hamburg, according to police, while another 1,500 rain-soaked demonstrators gathered under umbrellas outside the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, Denmark, and more than 1,000 hit the streets in Stockholm, Sweden. The marches were planned by anti-war activists to coincide with protests in Washington and San Francisco.
Closely watched by police in anti-riot gear, a few thousand people marched in downtown Rome in a protest dominated by banners referring to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that also was attended by some opposition politicians.
"We're aware that war and terrorism feed each other," Paolo Cento, a lawmaker for the Greens party, said of his opposition to a war against Iraq.
In Baghdad itself, American anti-war activists protested in front of U.N. offices, urging the U.N. Security Council not to give Bush a blank check for war against Iraq. Six members of the Chicago-based Voices in the Wilderness raised banners including "Drop sanctions not bombs."
In Tokyo, about 300 Japanese staged a "peace walk," holding up placards urging governments to "stop the war before it starts."
The United States, backed by Britain, wants tough new rules for U.N. weapons inspections and a declaration from the Security Council that Iraq faces "serious consequences" if it fails to comply.
However, Russia wants to stick as closely as possible to current inspection rules and eliminate any language allowing an attack on Baghdad. France also opposes any language possibly authorizing military action and wants to water down some U.S. inspection proposals.
"We say to President Bush: there is no reason for this war," pacifist German lawmaker Hans-Christian Stroebele told the crowd in Berlin, drawing cheers as he added: "This war is unjustified."
Saturday's were the first major demonstrations in Germany in recent months against the prospect of military action against Iraq, which has been staunchly opposed by Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.
"I expect the government at least to stick to that," said Susanne Roessling, 41, an employee at a legal firm. "They should really exert pressure," for instance by refusing to let U.S. planes attacking Iraq fly over Germany, she added.
Schroeder has argued that a strike against Baghdad could wreck the international anti-terror coalition and throw the Middle East into turmoil, and says Germany would not participate.
That stance is credited with helping Schroeder narrowly win re-election last month, and led to a cooling in relations between Berlin and Washington.
"It's a tactical position that could change tomorrow," 54-year-old peace activist Wolfgang Ratzel said at the Berlin protest. "I have no illusions about the effect" of the demonstration, he added.
"Saddam Hussein is one of the absolutely worst dictators in the world today ... but that doesn't justify the USA's war plans," Gudrun Schyman, leader of Sweden's former communist Left Party, told the crowd in Stockholm.
"You don't disarm a regime by conducting an armed war."
©2002 The Associated Press