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Rumsfeld stopover at Shannon airport a disgrace, says anti-war group

A STOPOVER at Shannon airport yesterday by US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has been sharply criticised by the anti-war movement.

Mr Rumsfeld was travelling to Kuwait to meet US troops serving in Iraq.

At a refuelling stop, he gave an impromptu press conference for agency journalists, surrounded by troops who were also on their way to Kuwait.

He told reporters that al-Qa'ida members were clearly involved in insurgency in Iraq.

However, he said that insurgents trying to foment ethnic and religious violence in the country were "failing" in a parallel effort to frighten Iraqis away from joining new security services.

Of the continuing violence, he said: "The Iraqi people don't like it," adding that Iraqis were undeterred by the attacks and were continuing to sign up for their nation's security services.

But his presence in the airport attracted criticism.

Member of Refuelling Peace, Tim Hourigan, said Mr Rumsfeld's visit "gave a lie" to the Government's assertion that it did not support the war in Iraq.

He said it was "a disgrace" that the Defence Secretary was allowed use the facilities at Shannon while anti-war activists were banned from Co Clare.

"Mr Rumsfeld's visit gives a lie to the statement by the Irish Government that it doesn't support the war in Iraq," Mr Hourigan said.

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"The Government should be ashamed of itself in its continuing support for the US war effort.

"It is a disgrace that Mr Rumsfeld is being allowed to use the facilities at Shannon, when anti-war activists are being banned from entering, not just Shannon, but Co Clare," he said.

Last year, 125,855 US troops passed through Shannon airport, allowing Aer Rianta to generate an estimated ?15.5m from the military traffic going through the airport.

In the past two years, just under 200,000 US troops have passed through Shannon airport, largely attributable to America's involvement in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

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