- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 13, 2003

BAGHDAD, Iraq, Feb. 13 (UPI) — The first group of Western volunteer "human shields" prepared Thursday to deploy at vital installations in Baghdad in an attempt to deter the United States from going ahead with plans for war on Iraq.

"We are the first wave of a tide. We want to stop the war," said Dr. Marino Andolina, an Italian pediatrician.

Andolina told United Press International that by posing as human shields, they want to make the cost of war on Iraq higher for the United States.

"If they kill one European, the cost is higher. If they kill an Arab, the cost is very low," he explained.

The group was set to visit a water purification plant and an electricity facility in Baghdad Thursday. Hospitals and schools are also among the sites they will seek to protect.

Andolina was among a group of 14 Canadians, Italians and Spanish who traveled to Baghdad to oppose war in Iraq. They brought with them a big dog.

Their spokeswoman, Roberta Tamam, said they want to organize a peaceful stand at strategic points where they would raise "No War" signs.

"We want to stand peacefully and ask for peace in Iraq," Tamam said. She noted that they were consulting with the Iraqi authorities to help define their targeted sites.

She denied any pressure from the authorities who, she said, told the protestors there were free to go to the sites of their choice.

Tamam urged similar actions in various parts of the world that would culminate on Feb. 16, two days after the U.N. Security Council would convene on the Iraqi crisis.

A Spanish volunteer, whose government supports the United States against Iraq, said decisions to make war should not be taken against the will of the population.

"In Spain, Turkey and Italy, populations don't want to go to war and the governments do," he said. "So we have to change the mind of our governments because they are not representing us at this moment."

Another protestor, a 31-Canadian computer analyst, said: " My heart goes out for the people of Iraq and I believe if war takes place, security and human rights will be compromised."

He said war would affect people in Canada, Britain and elsewhere and that was why it was very important to protest.

Dr. Andolina was on his fifth mission, having previously gone to Lebanon, Bosnia and Afghanistan. He wanted to be in Baghdad, he said, to witness any crime that may committed against the population.

"We will be there where the bombs are to fall," he said. "Next week, we will be hundreds; lots of people are coming."

Asked if they are afraid that they would be caught in the hostilities, one of the human shields said: "We will cross that bridge when we get to it."

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