- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 18, 2007

MADRID (Agence France Presse) — Tens of thousands demonstrated yesterday across several European cities in protest against the war in Iraq, ahead of the fourth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion.

Spain attracted the biggest demonstrations, with organizers saying about 400,000 attended a major rally in Madrid to protest the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, supported at the time by Spain’s government but overwhelmingly opposed by the Spanish population. Spanish police did not give any crowd estimates.

The marchers in the Spanish capital followed the example of numerous rallies in the United States and across Europe from Turkey to Denmark. Three dozen marchers clad in orange in the style of purported Islamic radicals held at the U.S. “enemy combatant” camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, brandished a huge banner as they set off at the head of the Madrid rally. Others waved placards denouncing President Bush and also former Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar for “war crimes” and called on them, along with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, to apologize for Iraq’s suffering.

Rosa Regas, the head of Madrid’s public library, said the war had caused Iraq to “lose its identity” and claimed the conflict marked the United States’ “second great failure in its history,” an apparent allusion to the Vietnam War.

Spanish press said about 1,500 people gathered in Barcelona, while hundreds more rallied in several other cities, including Seville and Granada.

However, the marches yesterday were on a much smaller scale than those of four years ago, when Madrid was the scene of a massive protest by more than one million people on Feb. 15, 2003, just ahead of the invasion.

About 6,000 people demonstrated in Istanbul — about half on the European side and half on the Asiatic side of the city — to calls of “U.S. go” and “Stop the occupation.”

Turkish public opinion solidly opposes the war and, in 2003, Turkey refused to let U.S. troops use Turkish soil, preventing the opening of a second front in the north of the country. Demonstrations also took place in the Greek cities of Athens and Salonika, where hundreds of protesters called for an “end to the occupation.”

In Denmark several hundred protesters demonstrated against that nation’s participation in the war, singing songs, listening to speeches and carrying banners outside the U.S. Embassy in Copenhagen, the online edition of daily Politiken reported.

Denmark has had troops in Iraq since August 2003, the majority of them based around the southern city of Basra under British command.

Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced last month that the Scandinavian country would withdraw its 460 troops in August. They are to be replaced by four helicopters and 50 men.

In Nicosia, about 300 demonstrators marched on the U.S. Embassy, together with a number of European left-wing politicians attending a conference taking place in the Cypriot capital.

The left-wing Pancyprian Peace Council organized the rally, and the key speaker was the communist Akel party leader Demetris Christofias.

“Four years since the invasion of Ira has only made it clearer, as in the case of Afghanistan and Yugoslavia, that the notorious ‘New World Order’ means none other than war and bloodshed,” Mr. Christofias told the crowd.

The U.S. invaded Iraq on March 20, 2003.

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