Across the globe, anti-war protesters take to the streets

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

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

Russian President Vladimir V. 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.

Officials in Pakistan strongly criticized the strikes, but said Iraqi President Saddam Hussein shared the blame because he did not pursue all possibilities to avoid war.

In cities across Europe, including Athens, Rome, and Paris, thousands of protesters demanded an end to the U.S.-led action. Demonstrators also took to the streets in Jordan, Syria and Egypt.

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 watched from vans and horseback. Another London protest is planned for tomorrow.

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 said yesterday that military action in Iraq was unavoidable and that his country would support the war effort by dispatching noncombat troops. He also said he would try to make sure the conflict didn't lead to a worsening of relations with North Korea.

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 yesterday suggested that Security Council resolutions on providing humanitarian aid to Iraq would fare better if presented by Secretary-General Kofi Annan instead of by two of the war's main participants - the United States and Britain.

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

But Annan and members of the Security Council - deeply split after failing to agree on a 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 German government indicated that it would join Europe and the world in reconstruction.

Also yesterday, leaders of the European Union convened in Brussels for a scheduled meeting expected to be dominated by Iraq as the group struggled to repair the rift created during the buildup to war.

Pointing out the profound splits, Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis vowed that his nation, which holds the EU's rotating presidency, "will do all it can so that we come to a common position to enable Europe to play a role at the next stage."

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.

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

Mexico also offered humanitarian aid to the people of Iraq but continued to speak out against the attack. "We are against war," President Vicente Fox said.

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder denounced the military action in a televised address. "The wrong decision has been made," he said. "The war has begun. It must be ended as quickly as possible."

That sentiment was echoed throughout many parts of the world yesterday.

"Patience, patience, O Bush, tomorrow the Muslims will dig your grave," demonstrators chanted in Cairo.

Protesters in the Philippines banged pots and in Colombia scrawled "Bush, your empire will eventually crumble" on walls.

The U.S. Embassy in Brussels was stoned, and bricks and eggs were thrown at a local party office of Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, a Bush ally.

In Srinagar, the capital of heavily Muslim Kashmir, schoolboys watched TV footage of explosions in Baghdad and cheered when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was shown.

"Stupid war, mindless violence," said a placard in a sea of 50,000 anti-war demonstrators converging on Berlin's Brandenburg Gate.

In Sydney, Australia, protesters snarled traffic holding up signs saying "Disarm USA too." At one point, three Iraqi Kurds pushed to the front of the rally, holding up pictures of a chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.

"Saddam Hussein is not a person who should be defended," said Robert Ashdi, 48, who fled northern Iraq for Australia along with three other family members in 1991. "I think people here don't understand what they're talking about."

While few protesters or government leaders voiced sympathy for Hussein, people worried about ordinary Iraqis and prayed for a quick and low-casualty war.

"The thought now goes to the children, the families, those who run away, those who take shelter," said Cardinal Pio Laghi, who recently met Bush as part of Pope John Paul II's campaign against the war. "I feel a sense of frustration, fear, fright, especially thinking of the death that's looming over those people."

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