UK rally demands full troop pullout
Protesters also voice fear on Iran
LONDON -- Antiwar protesters converged on London yesterday to call on Prime Minister Tony Blair to withdraw all United Kingdom troops from Iraq and to voice fears over a potential conflict with Iran.
A few thousand people joined the march through the rainy capital, according to initial police counts.
That was far fewer than the numbers predicted by organizers, who hoped to top several hundred thousand, the number of people who turned out for a 2004 London rally to contest Britain's role in the March 2003 US-led invasion.
Blair said Wednesday that Britain would withdraw around 1,600 troops from Iraq over the coming months and aims to cut its 7,100 troop level to below 5,000 by late summer -- if Iraqi forces can secure the country's south .
"Whether 2,000 troops come home this year or not, it is too little too late and we must intensify our call for all troops to be withdrawn now and for Britain to break the link with George Bush's foreign policy," said Lindsey German, head of the Stop the War Coalition, which organized the demonstration.
"We think that the announcement that some troops will be withdrawn has made people more determined to join the demonstration."
She said marchers were also protesting Blair's plans for a new multibillion-dollar nuclear missile-defense system.
In a separate development, former UN ambassador Richard C. Holbrooke said Bush should follow Blair's lead and start withdrawing troops . Holbrook gave the Democrats' weekly radio address yesterday.
"Engaging in a broad-based diplomatic offensive, and beginning a redeployment of US forces in Iraq, represents the best way to secure America's interests in the region and combat the serious threat of terrorist networks," Holbrooke said.
Speakers at the London rally, and at a second demonstration in Glasgow, also voiced fears the United States and Britain could take military action against Iran over its nuclear program.