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Iraq: Thousands Protest Against Possible War


Baghdad, 15 March 2003 (RFE/RL) -- Tens of thousands of Iraqis gathered today in Baghdad and other cities to protest against a possible U.S.-led war. At demonstrations in the capital organized by the ruling Ba'ath Party, protesters carried signs denouncing war and supporting Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The protesters included a group of women dressed as potential suicide bombers.

The protest comes as officials continue debate over a proposed United Nations Security Council resolution that would give Iraq a short deadline to prove it has disarmed or face war. The leaders of Britain, Spain, and the United States -- the three sponsors of the resolution -- are set to meet for an emergency summit in the Azores tomorrow.

Meanwhile, the Iraq crisis is dominating discussion among European defense ministers meeting in Greece. The European Union's foreign-policy chief, Javier Solana, said he is "not very optimistic" about the chances of avoiding war, but he said the possibility for a diplomatic resolution still exists.

Also today, Iraqi authorities continued destroying banned missiles under the supervision of UN weapons inspectors, a day after handing the UN a report on the country's allegedly destroyed stockpiles of VX nerve gas and dried anthrax spores.

Ewan Buchanan of the UN Monitoring, Verification, and Inspection Commission said late yesterday that Iraq had delivered a 25-page letter on the whereabouts of the chemical- and biological-weapons stockpiles.

Baghdad's UN ambassador, Muhammad al-Duri, told Reuters that the document will prove that Iraq has "no more of these materials and that they have been destroyed."

In Baghdad's 12,000-page report in December on weapons of mass destruction and other banned arms, Iraq said it had destroyed 3.8 tons of VX gas and 800 liters of anthrax but delivered no proof of the claims. UN chief weapons inspector Hans Blix had demanded documentation.

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