Last Update: Sunday, March 30, 2003. 0:37am (AEST)
Protests renewed worldwide as public fears long Iraq conflict
Campaigners are taking to the streets across the world once again to protest against the Iraq war, amid mounting public fears the US-British forces could become embroiled in a bloody and prolonged conflict.
Particularly strong turnouts were awaited in Britain and Spain, whose governments have offered unwavering support to Washington throughout the Iraqi crisis.
A thousand young people were filling the main square in Athens to protest against the war, with young Communists waving a swathe of red flags dominant among the participants.
One banner showed the US flag with a swastika in place of the usual stars.
"Faced with the facilities, rebellion is a duty," a placard said, referring to the Greek military facilities offered to the US army.
In a possible anti-US protest on Friday night, unknown individuals threw a grenade into a McDonalds fast food restaurant in Athens, damaging the interior.
In the French town of Arles on Saturday, 30 anti-war protesters covered petrol pumps at a filling station owned by US oil giant Esso with a massive black tarpaulin emblazoned with the words "the bloody stupidity of war".
"Covering the symbol of the multinationals in black is an expression of our anger, our sadness and feelings for the innumerable victims," one of the organisers said.
Thousands of demonstrators marched on the US consulate in South Africa's Cape Town to protest against the war in Iraq, burning US flags and chanting anti-American slogans.
The protesters, estimated by SAPA news agency to number more than 10,000, demanded the expulsion of the US and British ambassadors in South Africa.
In Bangladesh, police said some 5,000 members of the Islamic group Shashantantro Andolon staged a peaceful protest and tried to march on the guarded diplomatic areas in the capital Dhaka.
On Friday local time, Bangladesh, the world's third largest Muslim-majority country, saw 10,000 people turn out in Dhaka to demand an end to the invasion of Iraq, torching a large number of effigies of US President George W Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Tens of thousands of people were expected to turn out at protests on Saturday local time in London, Berlin, Paris, Barcelona, Rome and several other European cities.
The Stop the War Coalition was planning demonstrations across Britain as the bodies of the first British servicemen to die in the conflict were being flown home.
The protests were designed to target the war coverage provided by public broadcaster BBC, which the anti-war coalition says is merely regurgitating the Government's line, and to vent mounting public anger at the rising number of civilian casualties.
The protest in Barcelona was to targeted the offices of Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's ruling Popular Party, the only political faction in Spain to openly support the war.
In Germany, organisers were expecting 50,000 people to form a spectacular 50-kilometre human chain between the north-western cities of Muenster and Osnabrueck, where peace treaties putting an end to the bloody 1618-1648 war were signed.
Anti-war campaigners in Berlin said they hoped Saturday's demonstration in the German capital would have as many participants as three previous rallies, which drew between 40,000 and 70,000 people.
Organisers were also expecting 5,000 people to take part in a sit-in at a US military base in Frankfurt, where they would form a human chain around the US European Command headquarters.
China's police have given the go-ahead for the country's first anti-war protests on Sunday but have strictly limited the numbers allowed to take part.
One demonstration is to be held by a group of intellectuals in a park and another by students of the prestigious Beijing University, the organisers said on Saturday.
Beijing has until now refused to allow its people to take to the streets, fearing activists could be emboldened to take on domestic targets.
Public hostility to the war has remained strong in most European countries, with the press offering few notes of optimism on the progress of the US and British military campaign.
A CSA poll published in French daily Liberation on Saturday showed that 78 per cent of the public in France opposed the war, with 79 per cent saying they had no confidence in US President George W Bush.
Other polls showed overwhelming majorities of people in Spain, Italy and Portugal were deeply opposed to the conflict, even though all three countries' governments have given the United States full support for its war.
The planned weekend demonstrations follow massive protests by Muslims in Asia and the Middle East after Friday prayers.
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