August 31, 2013

Possible US-led attack on Syria sparks rallies

The Associated Press

HOUSTON — Protesters around the world are taking to the streets to either protest against or to support a possible U.S.-led attack on Syria.

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The Veterans for Peace, Code Pink and Peace Action Maine held a rally Saturday against US intervention in Syria. Michael Anthony of Portland, right, joined the rally with other objectives.

Photo by Gordon Chibroski, Staff Photographer

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President Barack Obama has said that any possible attack would be limited and aimed at punishing Syrian President Bashar Assad for his alleged use of chemical weapons. The U.S. has said Assad's regime launched a deadly chemical attack this month, killing more than 1,420 people, including more than 400 children.

In London, more than 1,000 protesters carrying Syrian flags and placards reading "Hands Off Syria," marched to Downing Street and rallied in Trafalgar Square on Saturday.

About 700 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration in Frankfurt, Germany, police said. Organizers of the protest said only a "sovereign, independent Syria free of foreign interference" would make it possible for the Syrian people to shape the country's future.

At a protest organized by left-wing opposition parties in Amman, Jordan, Kawthar Arrar described any military intervention as "an aggression on the whole Arab world."

The protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy there chanted slogans and set fire to American and Israeli flags.

"Syria is the heart of the Arab world. Syria is facing an unprecedented American conspiracy," she said.

Rallies also are planned in the United States, including Houston, which is expected to have one expressing support for an attack and another that opposes action. Protesters in Boston also plan to gather to oppose an attack.

U.N. inspectors left Syria on Saturday after a four-day, on-site investigation in the area where the chemical attack is suspected. Their departure brought the looming confrontation between the U.S. and Assad's regime one step closer to coming to a head.

Most observers viewed U.S. military action as unlikely while the U.N. team was still inside Syria, but the Obama administration has made clear that it is confident in its assessment and could act before the U.N. releases the results of its probe.

The protesters in London hailed as a victory the U.K. parliament vote on Thursday against British participation in any U.S.-led attack.

"Today is a victory of British public opinion over those who want war," former Labour Party lawmaker Tony Benn told the protesters. "Chemical weapons are terrible weapons, but when you think of all the thousands of people that have been killed by British and American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq you realize that it isn't true that another war would solve the problem."

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