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Demonstrations change focus

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 13, 2003

WASHINGTON -- Meg Zupancic knows her country has overwhelmed the enemy with military might in the last few weeks.

But she feels no victory.

For Zupancic and about 5,000 other protesters who gathered Saturday a couple of blocks from the White House, troubling questions remain about the Bush administration's plans for postwar Iraq and the possibility of more wars against countries said to have weapons of mass destruction.

Ten blocks away, a similar number of Bush sympathizers cheered the war effort, saying Iraqis have been freed and Americans made more secure. Even though the war in Iraq has gone well for the United States, they said troops still need to hear support from back home.

"We shouldn't back off just because there has been a turning point," said Savannah Young, an 18-year-old college student from Orlando.

Both sides said they supported the troops and expressed disappointment, for different reasons, with the American media's coverage of the war.

At the event near the White House, the same groups who organized massive antiwar marches during the fall and winter turned their attention to what they described as the American occupation of Iraq.

Zupancic, a 28-year-old molecular biologist who lives near Washington, said she's worried the United Nations will have too small a role in Iraq over the next few months, and that too many American companies will profit from the rebuilding.

"I think all we've done is show that we're more militarily powerful than Iraq," she said, hoping the rally would encourage antiwar politicians to speak out.

Some asked when the troops would find the weapons of mass destruction that the Bush administration says Saddam Hussein was hiding in Iraq. Others said they wanted to make a statement against any further plans for using American force.

"It's more about breaking the cycle of violence," said Bob Worth, a 23-year-old student from Mississippi.

The demonstrators marched Saturday afternoon past the White House and outside the offices of companies that they said would profit from the war.

Meanwhile, war supporters waved American flags large and small at the western foot of the Capitol. Organizers called for silence as they read more than 100 names of U.S. troops killed in Iraq.

Paul Gardiner, a Virginia insurance broker, said he went to Saturday's rally to show support for his nephew, an F-15 pilot involved in the war effort. While he believes Hussein's treatment of his people justified the Iraq conflict, Gardiner said he does not want immediate action against countries like North Korea and Iran.

"I think we should take the same approach (as Iraq), where we exhaust all of the other options," said Gardiner, 55.

War supporters brought money, sunscreen and prepaid calling cards for the troops, and many said they were tired of being on the quiet end of the war debate. Speakers included former Sen. Fred Thompson and talk show host G. Gordon Liddy.

The crowds for demonstrations around the world were mostly larger than those in Washington, but the crowds were significantly smaller than in past demonstrations.

Some peace campaigners said they were continuing to rally because the war isn't over, despite the collapse of Hussein's government.

Many called for withdrawal of U.S. and British forces and warned they would oppose U.S.-led military interventions against Syria, Iran or North Korea.

On Feb. 15, millions of people rallied in coordinated protests around the globe. Saturday, rally organizers said that people were less willing to turn out now that the conflict might be almost finished and that supporters were tiring of the events that have been staged weekly in many European cities.

"People have been in the street for seven months," noted Pierre Villard, co-president of France's Peace Movement.

The Feb. 15 protest in Paris drew 200,000, and the following demonstrations have been steadily smaller.

"It doesn't matter how many people turn out, it's about registering a protest that a principle has been violated, international law has been violated and everyone who cares must register a protest," former Pakistani cricket captain Imran Khan said at a rally in London that drew about 20,000.

-- Information from Cox News Service, the Washington Post and the Associated Press was used in this report.

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