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Foreign Papers: Peace Marchers Pressure Allied Leaders

A number of foreign newspaper editorials said the massive peace demonstrations around the world created political hardships for government leaders pushing for a war against Iraq.

“Middle England was on the march as opposition to a military strike on Baghdad intensifies,” said the Belfast Telegraph. “The people have spoken, and the Prime Minister is today between a rock and a hard place.”

The Belfast editorial said, “Tony Blair knows that no Government can afford to ride roughshod over public opinion.”

“Saturday’s rallies cannot be ignored but neither can the threat of Saddam Hussein and the need for the world to be rid of his regime. How the latter can be achieved with universal support is almost impossible to see today,” the Telegraph said.

The Financial Times said Blair faced a nightmare—choosing “between joining a war without UN approval and saying No to the US president.”

Blair “could still back military action but only if he was willing to go against his word to the British people, to act against the vast body of public opinion, and to defy many in his own government and cabinet,” said the Financial Times. “Alternatively, he could refuse to back force, widen a transatlantic rift on policy and eat humble pie at Jacques Chirac’s table.”

Australia’s Canberra Times said that the anti-war demonstrations helped create a dilemma for the United States, Britain and Australia.

It warned Australian Prime Minister John Howard that he could not dismiss public opinion as “the chattering of the timid, or the predictable responses of the student and labour movements.”

The Sydney Morning Herald said the demonstrations, “for all their impressive scale, will not reverse the Howard Government’s commitment to war against Iraq.”

“The powerful opposition to war shown by so many Australians must give Mr Howard pause,” said the Herald editorial. “It was a powerful political statement for peace, against war and against the Government’s commitment to war.”

Pakistan’s most widely circulated English paper, Dawn, said the demonstrations showed that “there is widespread anger across the globe over the cavalier and arrogant manner in which the US has brushed aside all arguments in favour of finding a peaceful settlement to the Iraq crisis.”

“People are deeply worried that the US is foisting an unnecessary war that could further destabilize an already unstable region with unpredictable consequences,” the Dawn said.
The Times of India said, “In the ultimate analysis, there can be no national interest above the interest of the people. An increasing number led by France and Germany have understood this. It is time the US and UK showed the same sensitivity to public opinion.”

One of the fewer American newspapers to editorialize about the marches, USAToday said, “Certainly, public opinion is not sufficient justification for easing the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam to disarm. But it does argue for more patience and less petulance by the U.S. when working with allies.”

Edinburgh’s Scotsman noted that the demonstrations “have exposed deep divisions in Britain.”

But the editorial concluded that “seeking peace at any price invariably costs more than any other option.”

Referring to “Saturday’s extraordinary march,” the London Times praised Blair’s response to the demonstrators.

The Times said U.N. inaction would contribute to more suffering in Iraq and marchers should “contemplate the moral price of the policy they propose.”