Yemeni join fiery protests against U.S. strike on Iraq ‘Give peace a chance’ [Archives:2003/05/Front Page]

February 4 2003

In the Yemeni capital, leaders from the ruling and opposition political parties led tens of thousands from a main square to the U.N. office to deliver a message demanding the world body step in to prevent the war.
“‘No’ to an attack on Iraq. ‘No’ to American arrogance,” one banner read.
The head of Yemen’s Islamist opposition Islah Party Sheikh Abdullah al-Ahmar slammed what he called the “blood suckers” in the U.S. administration who are pushing for war.
“Those who are amassing fleets, speak with arrogance and their aim is to destroy Iraq’s … achievements and to control its oil which is making the blood suckers in the U.S. administration drool,” Ahmar said.
Ahmar described the possible war as ‘immoral’ and said that “the Zionist, American and British war is because of oil, it is oil that makes those vampires salivate.”
The protest organisers termed the move as “a return of colonialism and means for taking the oil.”
The demonstrators carried placards saying: Aggression on Iraq is terrorism itself, war on Iraq is return of the colonialism, the attack targets the Ummah’s resources and its faith, strike on Iraq is strike on one billion Muslims.
They demanded that the Arab leaders open the doors of jihad. “Open the doors of jihad, rulers,” they chanted.
After nearly 45 minutes of fiery speeches, the Yemeni protesters headed to the UN office in Sanaa where they delivered a petition requesting ‘the stopping of the American and British aggression on Iraq’.
Abdulkareem al-Iryani, political advisor to President Saleh, denounced the potential attack and said “no to the enemies of peace ” – the US, Britain and their allies.
While demonstrators carried banners that contained phrases refusing war and appealing for peace, there were no pictures of Saddam Hussein.
People also demonstrated outside United Nations offices in Syria and Bahrain hours before a deadline for a report by U.N. arms inspectors on Iraq’s cooperation in their hunt for weapons of mass destruction.
Also in India’s financial capital, Bombay, about 1,000 protesters against war on Iraq shouted anti-American slogans as they marched through the crowded streets, blocking traffic.
Demonstrators in Damascus gathered outside the U.N. office where they chanted slogans, calling Bush a “criminal and a butcher” and demanding he ditch his “plan” to attack Iraq.
“We sacrifice our souls and blood for Iraq,” chanted young demonstrators. “America wants to dominate us, it wants to weaken us and to destroy Iraq to control its oil,” said student Housam Halabi, echoing a view shared by many Syrians and Arabs.
Give peace a chance
Most Arab countries oppose a war against Iraq fearing it would further destabilize the Middle East, and advocate instead a peaceful solution to the crisis over Iraq’s alleged weapons of mass destruction. Iraq denies having any such weapons.
The protests come at a time of heightened anti-U.S. sentiment among ordinary Arabs already angry at what they see as Washington’s blind support for Israel which is battling a Palestinian independence uprising.
The arms inspectors’ report to the Security Council is seen as crucial for any U.S. attack on Iraq. Baghdad says it hopes the report will confirm it is free of banned weapons and find its cooperation with the inspections was “super.”
In the Bahraini capital, Manama, about 100 youths asked the U.N. to prevent the United States from launching a war on Iraq.
Carrying banners saying “‘No’ to war in Iraq” and “Death to America,” they delivered a letter asking the United Nations to fight poverty and illiteracy rather than provide authorization for a war on Iraq.
“We are asking for peace and we want the United Nations to hear our pleas to save the Iraqi people,” said 20-year old civil engineering student Ebtisam Al Shenoo, standing underneath blood red banners and fluttering Iraqi flags.
“We want to reach them (the United Nations) before they make any decision,” marketing student Nidhal al-Qassab told Reuters, adding that he hoped the United Nations will prevent a war.
“If the United Nations doesn’t have the power (to do that) then there is no reason for it to exist.”
World leaders divided
Meanwhile, world leaders counseled restraint while others called for condemnation as U.N. weapons inspectors reported to the Security Council on efforts to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction.
The United States, Britain and Australia condemned Saddam for failing to cooperate with the inspection process and indicated that time for action was drawing close.
“We made it very clear … that we could not allow the process of inspection to string us on forever,” said U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.
On Friday Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi condemned Iraq for failing for more than a decade to carry out its obligations under United Nations resolutions.
“Iraq needs to fulfill U.N. resolutions and completely wipe out the concerns among the international community,” Kawaguchi told the Diet. “(Iraq) is challenging the authority of the U.N.”
But other Security Council members, most importantly Russia, China and France, said the inspections should continue for several weeks, if not months. That difference of opinion could make or break international support for military intervention in Iraq.
Outside U.N. headquarters in New York, more than 300 protesters demonstrated against a possible war in Iraq, chanting “people united stop the war.”
In Germany, about 3,000 people protested outside the U.S. consulate in Frankfurt, carrying banners with slogans including “No Bush-fire” and accusing the United States of going to war over oil. Hundreds more gathered in downtown Dresden and in Berlin.
In his report to the Security Council Monday, Blix, who heads the hunt for biological and chemical weapons programs, said Iraq had not genuinely accepted the U.N. resolution demanding that it disarm.
His nuclear inspection counterpart ElBaradei said there was no evidence so far that Iraq was reviving its nuclear program and said inspectors needed a “few months” to complete the search.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Saddam was “making a charade of inspection” and was “practicing concealment.”
Australian Prime Minister John Howard said Iraq was in “material breach.” Australia is one of only three nations _ along with the United States and Britain _ to have sent troops to the Persian Gulf region to prepare for possible war with Iraq.
Elsewhere, however, there was little appetite for military action.
Jordanian Information Minister Mohammad Affash Adwan said the inspectors should be allowed to finish their mission in Iraq.
Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul said the responsibility to avoid war lay with Iraq, but called for a new Security Council resolution before military action was taken.
“It’s very important for us,” said Gul, whose predominantly Muslim nation is a close U.S. ally.
Norway and Canada’s leaders both echoed calls for more time, while New Zealand, called on Baghdad to cooperate more fully with U.N. inspectors.
The European Union is split down the middle on the issue, with Spain, Italy, Portugal and others leaning toward the pro-American camp led by Britain, while Belgium, Sweden and Finland are more closely aligned with France and Germany’s anti-war stance.
French President Jacques Chirac and German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder agreed Monday that the inspectors should be given the time they need to complete their mission, thepresident’s office said.
Earlier Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin emphasized the need to continue weapons inspections during a telephone conversation with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.
Iraq insisted it had done everything it could to aid in the hunt for banned arms programs.