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Large-scale antiwar demonstrations to take place around the world

LONDON—In London and Rome, San Francisco, New York and dozens of other cities worldwide, peace marchers are expected to throng the streets Saturday in what many view as a last-ditch effort to stop a war against Iraq.

With American preacher and antiwar campaigner Jesse Jackson at his side, London Mayor Ken Livingstone said Friday that he "would be surprised" if there weren't at least 500,000 demonstrators in London alone. Organizers are hoping for 1 million.

That five-hour march and demonstration, which will envelop much of central London and Hyde Park, could rank as the largest protest in the British capital's history.

"People are talking with their marching feet their leaders are not listening," said Jackson, who said he came to London's protest to illustrate the global reach of the antiwar movement.

Organizers say Rome could have a million marchers, New York 100,000 and Berlin 80,000, with thousands more in some 30 cities around the world.

Some small demonstrations took place Friday. In Bahrain, 300 antiwar protesters gathered outside United Nations House in Manama.

In Tokyo, about 3,500 protesters, including union members, university students, human rights groups and members of socialist and communist parties, gathered in a park Friday night to wave placards and banners opposing any U.S.-led attack on Iraq.

While traditional antiwar groups, including labor unions, university student groups and left-wing parties, are the core of the protests, organizers said they expected many first-timers.

"There's been a huge response from the Bristol community—a lot of people who haven't been on marches before, a lot of families," said march organizer Nathan Eisenstadt of England's University of Bristol. By midweek, he said, Bristol had reserved 60 buses, seating 50 each, for the two-hour trip to London.

Organizers said they were expecting 32 buses from Liverpool, 80 from Manchester and 35 from quiet, rural Devon.

Marchers and organizers hope to put political pressure on President Bush and other leaders who've endorsed a pre-emptive attack on Iraq.

Polls worldwide show heavy opposition to war, at least to one that isn't condoned by a United Nations resolution.

A massive antiwar march could prove especially uncomfortable for Britain's Labor Party Prime Minister Tony Blair, Bush's staunchest ally.

Unions—Labor's traditional backbone—will be heavily represented in Saturday's demonstration, as will Labor Party members of Parliament. A poll released Thursday showed that 72 percent of Londoners oppose Britain joining America in war without U.N. approval.

"I think the Blair government is in its deepest crisis since elected (in 1997)," said march organizer John Rees. "And if we push Blair out of war, it makes it very difficult for Bush to go to war."

"We can, when we stand up together, actually stop this war from happening," said Leslie Cagan, a co-chairwoman of New York's United for Peace and Justice chapter.


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Scott Canon in Bahrain, Michael Zielenziger in Tokyo and Frank Davies in Washington contributed to this report.)


(c) 2003, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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