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IN THE NEWS - January 25, 2003: Anti-War Demonstrations - 2003-01-24

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In the News.

Last Saturday, people around the world demonstrated against President Bush’s plan to take military action against Iraq. Protests took place in the United States, Japan, Pakistan, Syria and Egypt. There were other demonstrations in Russia, France, Britain, Argentina and Mexico.

The largest demonstration took place in Washington, D.C. Tens of thousands of people gathered in front of the United States Capitol building to hear speeches and to march. People came from all around the country and stood in very cold weather to take part in the demonstration. It was the largest antiwar demonstration since the period of the Vietnam War. Thousands of people attended similar demonstrations in San Francisco, California, and other American cities.

A coalition of activists organized the demonstrations in Washington and San Francisco. The activists hoped the protests would show that many Americans were opposed to war.

President Bush says Iraq has weapons of mass destruction and plans to use them against the United States. American officials have warned Saddam Hussein to disarm or face serious action. Iraq says it does hot have such weapons.

In November, the United Nations Security Council passed a resolution ordering Iraq to prove it does not have weapons of mass destruction. It sent U-N inspectors to Iraq to search for banned nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. The inspectors say Iraq is not fully cooperating. They are preparing to release their first major report to the U-N about their findings on Monday.

President Bush could order a military attack if he declares Iraq in violation of U-N resolutions. He says he has the right to attack even without U-N support. The United States and its main ally, Britain, are sending thousands of troops to the Persian Gulf in preparation for a military attack.

American activists want a peaceful solution to the Iraqi crisis. They say a war would kill thousands of Iraqi civilians and further weaken the American economy. They also say it would be dangerous American foreign policy to order a first strike attack against another country.

Many demonstrators in Washington criticized the Bush administration for rushing into war. They said Mister Bush has not yet proved his case for leading a military attack against Iraq. They said the U-N weapons inspectors should be given more time to do their work. Some anti-war activists said President Bush’s real goal for going to war is to take control of the oil fields in Iraq.

A small group of people in Washington protested in support of military action against Iraq. They said the best way to help the Iraqi people is to remove Saddam Hussein from power.

Experts say public opinion in the United States is still divided on the issue.

This VOA Special English program, In the News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.