- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 19, 2005

LONDON — Tens of thousands of anti-war protesters demonstrated across Europe yesterday to mark the second anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, with 45,000 marching from London’s Hyde Park past the U.S. Embassy.

In Istanbul, about 15,000 people protested in the Kadikoy neighborhood against the U.S. presence in Iraq.

But the rallies were nowhere near as big as those in February 2003, just before the war, when millions marched in cities around the world to urge President Bush and his allies not to attack Iraq.

With international forces still facing violent opposition in Iraq, protesters were divided about what to demand from leaders now. While some wanted a full troop withdrawal, others argued that would leave Iraqis in a worse position than before the invasion.

“We got the Iraqis into this mess, we need to help them out of it,” said Kit MacLean, 29, waiting near Hyde Park’s Speakers’ Corner before the London march began.

Some worried Mr. Bush might be planning another war in the Middle East or elsewhere.

“After Iraq — Iran? Syria? Cuba?” read one placard.

One man carried fake bombs with American flags painted on them and a dartboard map of the world showed a U.S. missile sticking out of Iraq.

Security was heavy as the demonstrators moved past the U.S. Embassy. Cement barricades and metal fences blocked the building, as they have since the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Two former British soldiers placed a cardboard coffin bearing the words “100,000 dead” outside the embassy.

“George Bush, Uncle Sam, Iraq will be your Vietnam,” marchers chanted.

At the demonstration in Istanbul, two marchers dressed like U.S. soldiers pretended to rough up another, who was dressed as a detainee with a sack on his head, in a mimed criticism of prisoner abuse cases.

“Murderer Bush, get out,” read one sign.

In the southern city of Adana, home to a Turkish military base used by American forces, protesters laid a black wreath in front of the U.S. Consulate to protest the war, the Anatolia news agency reported.

In Athens, about 3,000 protesters brought the city center to a standstill for three hours and painted outlines of bodies outside the U.S. Embassy.

Hundreds also turned out in Sweden and Norway.

“I think it’s important to show that we still care about this,” said Linn Majuri, 15, a member of the environmental organization Green Youth in Stockholm. “People have become apathetic about this, it’s no longer something they walk around thinking about every day.”

With music and banners, marchers in Rome demanded the withdrawal of Italian troops from Iraq. “Iraq to the Iraqis!” read one banner.

Demonstrations also were planned in nine Spanish cities including Madrid, Barcelona and the Basque seaside resort of San Sebastian.

British elections expected in May added a charge to the London protest. Prime Minister Tony Blair has been Mr. Bush’s staunchest ally in Iraq, despite strong domestic opposition to the war, especially among members of his Labor Party.

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