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Australians Nation-Wide Rally for Peace

Author and filmmaker John Pilger has told a huge rally in Sydney that the Australian Government is "extremist" in its pro-US stance on Iraq.
Photo: Peace marchers walk through downtown Sydney on November 30. About 15,000 demonstrators marched through Australia's largest city to protest possible pre-emptive military strikes against Iraq. REUTERS/Jason Reed

The anti-war rally was one of several held across Australia Saturday.

An estimated 15,000 people gathered in the Domain after marching through city streets to protest against Australia becoming involved in any US-led pre-emptive strike on Baghdad.

The crowd heard from leaders of religious, union and community groups.

Mr Pilger told the crowd their stance marked them as moderates.

But he says the Government's enforcement of sanctions against Iraq and its willingness to join a war against Baghdad make them extremists.

"They have to be extreme to attack, unprovoked, a country that offers no threat to Australia, with whom Australia trades," he said.

"A whole people held hostage to a medieval embargo, as well as to their own dictator."

The Auxiliary Catholic Bishop of Canberra and Goulburn, Pat Power, was one of many speakers to denounce both the US and Australian governments for linking the war against terrorism to Iraq and possible weapons of mass destruction.

"All it has done is widen the divide between 'them and us' and produced a climate of war," he said.

Award-winning actor Judy Davis told the crowd the Howard Government could not be justified in getting involved.

"Mr Howard, you haven't presented us with a single compelling reason for the further slaughter of innocent people and we will not ever support your war on Iraq," she said.

- Adelaide rally

Organizers Adelaide's peace protest say Australia will have to send troops into Iraq before greater sections of the community will oppose war.

About 1,500 people marched through the city center, calling for no war against Iraq.

The protest was twice the size of a rally held earlier this month and included grandparents, children and families.

But organizer Mike Khizam says opinions will not polarize until if and when war breaks out.

"There's greater confusion about the issues and I do know the issue is no longer top of the agenda on news reports," Mr Khizam said.

"Unless there is a sense of crisis or a war breaks out, it is unlikely we'll see very large numbers on the street."

- Tasmanian rally

In Tasmania, more than 400 people demonstrated their opposition to a US-led attack on Iraq.

They marched through the streets of central Hobart calling for peace, the fourth demonstration of its kind in the past three months.

Australian Greens Senator Bob Brown addressed the crowd, calling on world leaders to remember the lessons learnt during World War II and strive for peace.

"How much better if instead of war they remembered back that half century and brought in a Marshall Plan, not for reconstructing Europe but reconstructing our planet to bring fairness, education, opportunity, food, shelter to the dispossessed millions of people who are our brothers and sisters on this planet," he said.



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