Britons stage rally against West Asia war

Hasan Suroor

LONDON: In what was claimed to be the biggest anti-war rally since one million Britons marched through Central London against the invasion of Iraq three years ago, tens of thousands of people gathered outside Downing Street here on Saturday to protest against the continued Israeli bombardment of Lebanon in which hundreds of innocent civilians have been killed.

Protesters, who had come from all across Britain, handed in a petition urging Prime Minister Tony Blair to call for an immediate ceasefire. The petition, signed by an estimated 40,000 people, criticised Mr. Blair for not condemning Israel for its "disproportionate'' military response to Hizbollah's rocket attacks.

"The Pope, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Kofi Annan [U.N. Secretary-General] and everyone who is morally abhorred by the war, are calling for an immediate and unconditional ceasefire.

"However, Mr. Blair continues to support George Bush in giving the green light to the [Israeli] onslaught,'' the letter said.

The demonstration was part of a peace march, which started from Hyde Park and culminated into a rally at Westminster where the participants were addressed by prominent social and political figures, including several Labour MPs.

Jeremy Corbyn, a leading anti-war Labour MP, said the size of the rally indicated the scale of opposition to the Israeli actions. He said all "normal thinking'' people believed that there should be an immediate ceasefire and the British Government's line was "incomprehensibly wrong."

Protesters carried banners saying: "Ceasefire Now'' and "Hands off Lebanon''.

The rally was organised by Stop the War Coalition in collaboration with the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, the British Muslim Initiative and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. Organisers said they were overwhelmed by the response.

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