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Europe rallies for peace

Turkish protest
Left-wing protests on the streets of Istanbul  

PERUGIA, Italy -- Tens of thousands walked the annual 23-mile peace walk between Assisi and Perugia under banners calling for a halt to U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan.

Up to 50,000 people had been expected to march for peace on Sunday, making it the biggest demonstration so far in the growing protest at the missile bombardment.

It follows smaller marches in Italy on Saturday, including two in Rome and one in Naples which attracted 2,000 youths and other demonstrations across Europe.

Pope John Paul II made his latest appeal for peace from the Vatican. Speaking to thousands of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter's Square, John Paul said: "Because of the international situation, I invited all people and all communities to say the Rosary for peace. Today I renew this invitation."

The demonstrations are protesting against the U.S. military policy of bombing Afghanistan in its attempt to root out Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network, who are blamed for the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

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In Turkey, riot police broke up a demonstration of about 300 people and detained more than 40 people on Sunday. Two days earlier tear gas was used to disperse about 2,000 Muslims protesters.

Up to 40,000 people attended marches throughout Germany on Saturday, while 20,000 were estimated to have gathered at a rally in London.

Other demonstrations took place across Sweden and in Glasgow, Scotland.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has criticised the anti-war movement in his country.

In an interview with the Der Tagesspiegel newspaper he told protesters: "We didn't want this conflict and we didn't want to wage it with these means. Turn your focus on those who started this conflict."

The largest turn-out on Saturday was in Berlin where up to 30,000 peace demonstrators were estimated to have marched through the civic centre under the banners 'War is Genocide' and 'Stop Bush's War.'

News agencies quoted the police as saying 14,000 had gathered, while a figure of 30,000 was estimated by protest organisers.

Protesters from about 140 different groups including peace organisations, churches, student groups, right-wing and left-wing parties, and some unions, weaved their way past the Brandenburg Gate, past the foreign ministry and city hall.

Separate marches were held across Germany, including in the southern city of Stuttgart where 10,000 turned out.

Up to 20,000 people were said by police to have attended a rally in London, which took in Trafalgar Square and the West End.

Carol Naughton, chairman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND), organisers of the rally, said: "We're here because there are thousands of people across Britain who know that the bombing of Afghanistan is not going to put an end to terrorism."

Swedes demonstrated in three of its biggest cities, with the largest being in Gothenburg, the country's second city, where about 2,500 people took to the streets.


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