- The Washington Times - Monday, January 20, 2003

LONDON Saddam Hussein hailed the anti-war demonstrations in the United States during the weekend as proof that Americans back Iraq rather than President Bush.
Further pressure to head off a war came from Pope John Paul II, who gathered leaders of the world's largest religions in the Vatican and issued a joint condemnation of any war on Iraq.
"They are supporting you because they know that evildoers target Iraq to silence any dissenting voice to their evil and destructive policies," Saddam told senior officers, including his son Qusay, commander of the elite Republican Guard.
A group called Act Now to Stop War and End Racism, which organized the Washington rally, claimed that 500,000 people showed up, which would make it the biggest protest since the Vietnam War.
But police estimates ranged from 100,000 to 200,000, and there were few speakers from the mainstream of the Democratic Party, let alone Republicans.
It was part of a weekend of global protests, with demonstrations in Moscow, Paris, Berlin, Cairo and Damascus, Syria. Most polls show that roughly 60 percent of Americans favor military action. The conclave in the Vatican included 38 religious leaders from 15 countries and drew together faiths as diverse as Buddhism, Islam and Sikhism.
They called for "diplomacy and persuasion" in the Middle East and said: "Opting for peace does not mean a passive acquiescence to evil or compromise of principle. It demands an active struggle against hatred, oppression and disunity, but not by using methods of violence."
The pope has been a vocal critic of U.S. policy toward Iraq. He has publicly attacked sanctions imposed on Iraq and made clear that the Roman Catholic Church will not regard any conflict as just.


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