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Thousands prepare to march against Irish role in Iraq war

AS thousands prepared to take to the streets in protest, the Irish Anti-War Movement last night accused the Government of making a further lurch towards the pro-war camp.

It said the Taoiseach's meeting with US president George W Bush on St Patrick's day had brought Ireland further into line with the warmongers.

And the IAWM called on the public to march through Dublin today on the anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq.

Thousands are expected to protest at Foreign Minister Brian Cowen's statement of support for the Bush administration's war agenda, and his defence of the ongoing use of Shannon airport by the US military.

The demonstration is part of an International Day of Action calling for an end to the US occupation of Iraq, which will see mass protests in 108 cities worldwide.

Dublin's march will assemble at 3pm at the Garden of Remembrance, Parnell Square, and proceed to the Department of Foreign Affairs on St Stephen's Green.

Speakers will include Michael D Higgins TD (Labour Party), Joe Higgins TD (Socialist Party), Ibrahim Al Kaddoo (Representative of the Iraqi and Muslim community) and Brid Smith (Socialist Workers Party). There will also be speakers from SIPTU and The Palestinian Community. The demonstration will be chaired by Richard Boyd Barrett (Irish Anti-War Movement chairman) and Brendan Butler (NGO Peace Alliance).

Mr Boyd Barrett said: "We appeal to all those who are opposed to war, the lies that were used to justify war and Irish involvement in war, to protest tomorrow.

"Brian Cowen and Bertie Ahern's statements of support for the Bush administration and its so-called 'war on terror' are an absolute disgrace."

"The Government have learnt nothing from the tragedy of Spain if their response to recent events in that country is to continue to support Bush. Bush was responsible for the mass murder of at least ten thousand Iraqi citizens in a war we now know was based on a tissue of lies. "How can the Government condemn the brutal murder of 200 innocent Spanish people but praise and support the Bush administration who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of equally innocent Iraqis?"

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"The only way to end conflict and violence in the world is to deal with the massive injustices and poverty that exist in places like the Middle East. Meanwhile, more than 11,000 American troops passed through Shannon Airport last month on chartered passenger airlines - one of the highest numbers since the Iraqi war began, writes Willie Dillon. In addition, a total of sixty foreign military aircraft touched down on Irish soil - mostly American. This made February the joint busiest month for military landings since the start of the conflict.

The latest figures, from the Departments of Transport and Foreign Affairs, will strengthen claims by anti-war activists that Shannon is an important part of the American combat effort.

The figures show that almost 162,000 US military personnel have landed at Shannon in the past seventeen months in passenger aircraft.

There has been a steady flow of American troops through the airport since the build-up to the war began early last year. The single busiest month was last November when almost 14,500 military personnel stopped over at Shannon.

Anti-war activists say it is probable that the bodies of American troops slain in Iraq are also being brought through Shannon on US cargo flights.

The Department of Foreign Affairs declined to say what proportion of foreign military landings are by US planes.

However it is understood that the vast bulk are US and almost entirely at Shannon.

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