Friday 14 March 2003
Millions of Europeans stopped work at midday Friday to protest a possible attack on Iraq, as opposition to U.S.-led military action rippled across the globe.
Labor unions said millions of workers in countries including Spain, Germany, Italy and Switzerland answered a continentwide call to strike for 15 minutes to press for peace.
In Germany, where polls show an overwhelming majority of people oppose a war, the strikes briefly halted vehicle production at three Volkswagen factories and a DaimlerChrysler plant. Trams ground to a halt in the eastern city of Halle.
Italian unions said workers downed tools from Sicily in the south to Turin in the north. Activists hung a 6-yard rainbow peace flag from a bridge in Pisa, while workers in numerous factories sounded horns to mark the strike.
While German, French and Russian leaders are spearheading resistance to a military assault, backers of Washington's hard line like Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar and Australian Prime Minister John Howard are defying hostile public opinion.
"Not acting to rid the world of weapons of mass destruction is neither politically nor morally acceptable," Aznar told a meeting of his Popular Party shortly after the workers' protest.
On the other side of the globe, Howard was hounded by anti-war protesters during a series of appointments in the southern city of Adelaide. Demonstrators hurled eggs and tomatoes at Howard's car and brought traffic to a standstill.
One protester was taken into police custody for lunging at Howard's car but was not charged.
In Turkey, where the United States wants to deploy about 62,000 combat troops, two dozen peace activists chained themselves to the wheels of a truck blocking an entrance to the eastern port of Iskenderun, where U.S. forces are unloading equipment ahead of a possible Iraq war.
Police dragged away the demonstrators while dozens of Turkish soldiers reinforced the entrance to the port.
"If the U.S. is so intent on disarmament, it should start at home," said Banu Dokmecibasi, a spokesman for the environmental group Greenpeace. "It is the United States that possesses the world's most sophisticated weaponry and it is the United States that holds the world's largest arsenal of weapons of mass destruction."
In Russia, Greenpeace climbers hung a large poster that read "Veto War" on a span of a bridge across the Moscow river against the background of St. Basil's Cathedral and the golden-domed Kremlin.
About 350 people in the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan marched in the capital, Bishkek, with banners reading, "Do not draw us into war" and "The peaceful sky over Kyrgyzstan is not for war."
Kyrgyzstan has been hosting hundreds of U.S.-led anti-terror coalition troops from several Western countries at a civilian airport outside Bishkek. The Kyrgyz government insists the conditions for using the facilities only allow operations in Afghanistan not in Iraq.
In Egypt, about 4,000 demonstrators gathered at Cairo's Al-Azhar mosque, the highest authority in the Sunni Islamic world, chanting anti-American slogans and calling on Arab leaders to form a common front to avert a war.
More demonstrations were planned worldwide on Saturday.
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