Originally created 01/26/03

Thousands across Germany demonstrate against possible war on Iraq



GEILENKIRCHEN, Germany -- Thousands of people across Germany demonstrated Saturday against a possible war against Iraq, blocking the road to a NATO base and picketing American facilities.

Carrying signs with slogans like "No Blood for Oil" and "War is Murder," about 500 people closed the entrance to the NATO base in Geilenkirchen, where Airborne Warning and Control Systems airplanes with multinational crews are stationed.

Protest leaders broadcast a written resolution through a megaphone, calling for German airmen not to participate in any operations that could possibly assist U.S.-led military action against Iraq.

Germany's Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder has been outspokenly against participating in a war on Iraq, but has said he would allow Germans to man the AWACS to patrol the territory of NATO members - including Iraq's neighbor, Turkey.

Nobody from the base emerged to receive the protesters' resolution, and the peaceful afternoon blockade broke up after about 90 minutes, as agreed in advance with police.

The largest protest was in the western city of Cologne, where 10,000 people protested under the slogan "No War in Iraq" in a march through the city center, police said.

In the eastern city of Leipzig, around 500 people marched on the American consulate, carrying anti-war banners and signs. Fifty people demonstrated in front of U.S. European Command headquarters in the southern city of Stuttgart.

Despite the large numbers of people, police said all the protests were peaceful and reported no arrests.

Schroeder's anti-war stance is credited with helping propel him to a narrow re-election in September, and the latest monthly poll for the state ZDF channel shows nearly two-thirds of Germans back the chancellor's refusal to send combat troops to Iraq.

The weekend protests follow several last week around the country, with more planned for next week.