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World leaders condemn war, pledge support for post-war aid

LONDON—From France to Indonesia to Russia, in the offices of national leaders and in the streets, a loud international chorus Thursday condemned the attack on Iraq.

French President Jacques Chirac regretted an action that started without United Nations backing and predicted it will have "serious" consequences.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said the attack was being carried out "against world public opinion, against the principles and norms of international law." Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri denounced the attack, and China called it a violation of the U.N. charter.

Demonstrators protested in the streets of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Turkey and Greece.

The BBC reported 100,000 marchers in Athens.

One of the most raucous demonstrations took place in London, where a crowd estimated at 5,000 shut down the streets leading to and from Parliament while police looked on from vans and horseback. Another London protest is planned for Saturday.

Few of the official reactions were unexpected, given past public opposition by various governments. And other nations—including Australia, Japan and New Zealand—expressed expected support. South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun Thursday announced his country would support the war effort by dispatching non-combat troops.

But widespread anger over the war could affect international support as the world is called upon to help rebuild Iraq after a war that many nations opposed.

Diplomats at the United Nations in New York Thursday suggested that U.N. Security Council resolutions on providing humanitarian aid to Iraq would fare better if put forward by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan instead of by two of the war's main participants—the United States and Britain.

Annan himself was hardly neutral on the war, lamenting that, "war has come to Iraq for the third time in a quarter of a century."

"Perhaps if we had persevered a little longer, Iraq could yet have been disarmed peacefully or if not, the world could have taken action to solve this problem by a collective decision," he said.

But Annan and members of the Security Council—deeply split after failing to agree on a U.N. resolution condoning the war—seemed prepared to unify on resolutions paving the way for post-war aid.

Even though Germany continued to condemn the war—with Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer calling it "the worst of all solutions"—the Germany government indicated it would join Europe and the world in reconstruction.

"We have to take care of the actual situation on the ground and our primary concern is not a concern on legal questions, but to help the people who have been suffering a long time and are suffering even more now in military action," said Gunter Pleuger, German ambassador to the United Nations.

Leaders of the European Union convened in Brussels for a scheduled meeting expected to be dominated by Iraq.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw pledged about $125 million in humanitarian aid for Iraq. He said Britain "will be arguing for the European community to come together and recognize we have a common agenda" working for Iraq reconstruction.

"It is very clear that regardless of their opinions on the use of military force against Iraq, there is widespread understanding in the international community and in the Security Council about the humanitarian and reconstruction needs, which are there already as a result of Saddam's impoverishment" of his country, Straw said.

Despite angry exchanges in recent days between Straw and his French counterpart, France's Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin, Straw insisted that "personal relations are I think very good ... I think we will get through this period."


(Knight Ridder Newspapers correspondents Diego Ibarguen, Michael Zielenziger, Michael Dorgan and Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson contributed to this report.)


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