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Australian anti-war march


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Around 150,000 people have taken to the streets of Melbourne to protest against possible war with Iraq, kicking off a weekend of marches around the world.

It is the biggest peace protest in Australia since anti-Vietnam War demonstrations 30 years ago.

This is a huge statement by the people of Melbourne, and the people of Australia to John Howard - that he's gone the wrong way and should turn around

Greens Senator Bob Brown

Hundreds of other anti-war protests are scheduled for this weekend, the biggest of which are likely to be in London and Rome - organisers predict at least half a million demonstrators will turn out in each city.

Other major marches are planned for Dublin and San Francisco to campaign against increasing moves towards a war to rid Baghdad of its alleged weapons of mass destruction and to unseat Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.

The Melbourne march kicks off a weekend of protests

In Sarajevo, a city still scarred by Bosnia's civil war of 1992-95, around 500 protesters marched on the US embassy to mark their opposition to the conflict

"We want to say that any war means destruction, and all the people here know how many innocent civilians may die," said Senad Pecanin, editor of a local independent news magazine.

More protests are planned for this weekend around Australia, where Prime Minister John Howard is a staunch supporter of possible US intervention and has already committed 2,000 military personnel to the Gulf.

Global turnout

Greens Senator Bob Brown said the turn-out in Melbourne - put at more than 200,000 by organisers - showed Mr Howard did not have public backing.

"This is a huge statement by the people of Melbourne, and the people of Australia to John Howard - that he's gone the wrong way and should turn around," Senator Brown told the crowd.

Mr Howard is in Indonesia on Friday, where he was expected to reassure the Muslim nation's President Megawati Sukarnoputri that the Iraq campaign is not motivated by anti-Islamic feelings.

The Melbourne rally started with the sound of mock air raid sirens, symbolising air attacks on Baghdad, with participants carrying placards reading "No blood for oil", and "Don't bomb Iraq".

A major protest is planned for London

Saturday's planned march in London could become the country's biggest-ever anti-war protest, according to organisers.

In the Scottish city of Glasgow, activists will march on an exhibition centre where Prime Minister Tony Blair - President George W Bush's strongest ally over Iraq - is due to address a political conference.

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