- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 15, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, March 15 (UPI) — Arabs from Yemen to Lebanon joined demonstrations Saturday against the prospect of a U.S.-led war to force Iraq to disarm and replace the regime of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

The protests came as President George W. Bush and his principal allies prepared for an emergency weekend summit in the Azores in the eastern Atlantic to discuss the Iraqi crisis.

"We don't want the Iraqi people to suffer one more time," said a female student at the American University of Beirut who joined the crowd in front of the United Nations House in Beirut's city center. "If they (Americans) attack Iraq, there will be another Sept. 11," referring to the 2001 terror attacks in New York and Washington.

The young woman, who asked not to be identified, was among thousands of Lebanese and Palestinian anti-war protesters who flocked to the downtown area of Lebanese capital, where they raised Iraqi, Palestinian and Lebanese flags as well as pictures of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. The protesters included followers of various Muslim, leftist and nationalist groups as well as Lebanese officials.

"No to the U.S. aggression on Iraq," read one banner. "No to the U.S. hegemony on Iraq," read another. Demonstrators waved the banners and placards while shouting slogans such as "With blood and soul, we redeem you Iraq and Palestine."

"We are here to say 'No to War.' The only thing which would prevent the war is that democratic countries adopt the same position like France and work for peace," said Naji Khalaf.

Another protester, Walid, sees "no reason to launch a war even if Iraq has a nuclear bomb." He argued the United States produces nuclear bombs and has an arsenal of weapons of mass destruction and said: "Who can protect us against those arms?"

Like more than 100 other nations, the United States in 1993 signed the multilateral CWC — the Chemical Weapons Convention, or more formally the Convention on the Prohibition of the Development, Production, Stockpiling and Use of Chemical Weapons and on Their Destruction — after signed a similar Biological Weapons Convention in 1972.

To Walid, the only way to avoid a war is for President Bush and Saddam to "suffer a heart attack."

The Azores summit will concentrate on how to get U.N. support to authorize military action against Iraq. If France and Russia do not use their veto, the United States and United Kingdom could win with nine votes. At issue are convincing six undecided nations — Mexico, Chile, Cameroon, Angola, Pakistan and Guinea — and what to do if it appears the allies will not get the necessary votes.

In Jordan, which did not support the 1991 Gulf war but now host to U.S. troops, some 2,000 citizens marched to the United Nations building in the capital, Amman, on Saturday. The demonstrators denounced the United States, Britain and Israel and called on the government to expel the U.S. troops in the country ahead of an expected U.S.-led war on neighboring Iraq.

Protesting amid extremely tight security of heavily-armed riot police and plainclothed intelligence officers, the protesters chanted and carried Jordanian, Palestinian and Iraqi flags, and banners reading: "No to war on Iraq" and "No blood for oil."

The government recently said that "several hundred" U.S. troops were in the country to operate three Patriot anti-missile batteries provided by Washington, and to train their Jordanian counterparts on their use. But Amman has insisted it would not allow its territories or air space to be used for any war against its eastern neighbor.

At least one youth was seen being arrested, handcuffed and whisked away in one of many police cars that had cordoned off all the streets leading to the commercial district of Shmeisani, where the 5-storey U.N. building stands.

The protest, which received a government permit, was organized by the country's 13 opposition parties, led by the Islamic Action Front and including leftist and pan-Arab nationalist groups.

Meanwhile, in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, leading Islamic leader Abdul Majid al-Zandani Saturday called for jihad, or holy war, against the United States, describing it as the "mother of terrorism" and accusing it of seizing Arab lands and humiliating its people.

Zandani, head of the Shura (consultative) Council of the Islamic Reform Party, said the "Yemeni masses denounce the American aggression and terrorism that wants to shed blood for oil and to militarize Arab land to humiliate the Arabs."

His comments came in a massive demonstration against a possible U.S. war on Iraq in which opposition parties and civil institutions participated.

American press reports recently linked al-Zandani to a fatwa, or religious decree, allowing an attack on the USS Cole destroyer off the coast of Aden in October 2000. The influential leader categorically denied the accusation.

Meanwhile, the speaker of Yemen's National Assembly and leader of the Reform Party, Abdullah al-Ahmar, told the thousands of demonstrators that U.S. and British insistence on the presence of banned weapons in Iraq was "insane and reflects the range of buried hatred towards the Muslim Iraqi people and their scientific capabilities in all fields. America and Britain see this as a great danger to their interests and to Israel."

The Yemeni speakers were addressing one of a number of rallies called for by the president to express rejection of a possible war on Iraq.

Demonstrators raised banners denouncing the U.S. and Britain and calling on boycotting and resisting these two countries. Others read "Death to the war-makers," "We are all human shields for the integrity of Islam," "No to the supporters of (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon in our country" and "Terrorism is navies and aircraft carriers."

They chanted: "Death to America, death to Israel" and "America is the head of terrorism."

Yemeni President Ali Abdallah Saleh had called for Saturday's demonstration, saying ahead of legislative elections due in April that "the world is boiling because of the American crisis over Iraq."

(Sana Abdallah in Amman, Jordan, contributed to this report.)

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