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Rallies for, against war draw thousands

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published March 30, 2003

Massachusetts rallies both for and against the war with Iraq included a "die-in" at Boston Common and patriotic songs near a military reservation Saturday in two of many demonstrations across the nation.

American flags, patriotic songs and chants of "U-S-A!" filled the air in Mashpee, down the road from a military reservation that is home to Air National Guard troops deployed to Iraq.

"This is not a war of conquest, it is a war of liberation," retired U.S. Navy Capt. Thomas Hudner told the crowd of about 2,000.

About 60 miles north at Boston Common, a police-estimated crowd of 15,000 protested the war. Nuns, veterans and students listened to speakers and musical acts before marching to Boylston Street for a "die-in," during which they collapsed on the streets to dramatize war deaths.

In Harrisburg, Pa., the steps of the state Capitol were packed with war supporters. Police said about 8,000 people showed up, while organizers put the number at 12,000.

"I knew that today we would show where America is at on this issue," organizer and radio talk show host R.J. Harris said. The 48-year-old noted that an antiwar demonstration at the same site a week ago drew about 100 people.

In Miami's Little Havana, about 3,000 Cuban exiles and other Latin Americans chanted "Bush, Bush, Bush" as lawmakers voiced support for the war and opposition to Cuban leader Fidel Castro.

In San Francisco, a few hundred war supporters observed a moment of silence to honor those troops who have already died.

Other demonstrations drew hundreds of war opponents to New York City's Times Square, Denver, and Paterson, N.J.

War supporters gathered in Honolulu, Cleveland and near Fort Campbell, Ky., and Fort Stewart, Ga., where some of the troops killed or missing were stationed.

Hundreds of people in Mission, Texas, hometown of prisoner of war Army Spc. Edgar Hernandez, prayed at a downtown rally for the safe return of him and other troops.

"We have prayed to avoid this war, and it was not to be," the Rev. Roy Snipes, a Roman Catholic priest, said at the Mission rally. "We pray now for our soldiers to be noble, valiant and victorious."

Iran rejects Rumsfeld's accusations of meddling

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran dismissed as "baseless" allegations made by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that it is meddling in the war on Iraq, and insisted it would not allow Iraqi opposition in Iran to cross the border.

The "comments are baseless. Tehran does not allow any military activities on its border in favor or against any of the belligerent parties," government spokesman Abdollah Ramezanzadeh said.

On Friday, Rumsfeld accused Syria and Iran of meddling in the Iraq war. He said Iranian-backed Shiite opposition militias inside Iraq present a potential threat to U.S. and allied troops.

Ramezanzadeh said Iran's borders were "closed to any kind of military operations."

Iran supports the Tehran-based Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, whose Badr Corps acts as its military wing inside both Iraq and Iran.

Abu Eslam al-Saqir, a top adviser to council leader Ayatollah Mohammed Baqir al-Hakim, said the Badr Corps would not seek confrontation with allied forces.

"Our Badr army is not seeking any military confrontation with coalition forces. We only fight Saddam," al-Saqir said.

In other news ...

U.N. ROLE: French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair agreed Saturday that the United Nations must play a large role in running Iraq after the war, Chirac's office said. The two leaders "agreed on the importance of the role to be conferred on the United Nations after the conflict," Chirac's office said.

SYRIA: The Bush administration is informing high-ranking Syrian leaders about people it believes are responsible for shipping military equipment into Iraq through Syria, a State Department official said. The official said the administration believes the shipments involve parties well-known to the Syrian government, and the information about them was being shared with Syrian officials "at the highest levels."

On Friday, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld alleged that supplies with possible military uses against U.S. and British forces, such as night-vision goggles, have entered Iraq from its neighbor to the west. He demanded that Syria stop the transfers and said the Syrians would held accountable if they continued.

AIRSPACE: The United States stopped launching Tomahawk cruise missile over parts of Saudi Arabia after the kingdom complained that some of the weapons landed in the vast desert country, the U.S. Central Command said Saturday. The cruise missile problems involved missiles fired from ships in the Mediterranean and Red seas, and a military source said late Saturday the United States was considering moving some of its ships from the Red Sea to the Persian Gulf to get around the Saudi problem.

MISSING JOURNALISTS: Two Newsday journalists who disappeared from Baghdad may have been detained by Iraq's government, the newspaper's editor said. Reporter Matthew McAllester and photographer Moises Saman were last heard from Monday, and the newspaper has been unable to obtain information about their whereabouts from Iraqi officials, said editor Anthony Marro in a statement. According to a count by Reuters news agency, seven journalists, including Saman and McAllester, were missing in Iraq as of Saturday.

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