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Peace rally at EU meeting

Peace rally
Peace call: Rally also remembered the victims  

LIEGE, Belgium - Peace protesters marched through Liege as European Union finance ministers discussed the effects of the hijack strikes in the United States.

About 1,000 demonstrators with 'Make Love, Not War' banners staged a peaceful rally outside the barricaded EU conference centre.

The demonstration dispersed after holding a minute's silence for the victims of the hijack attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.

One of the organisers, George Robert told Reuters news agency: "Our first principle is to be anti-war and refuse to participate in U.S. action."

Liege police kept a low profile for the rally, with water cannon and anti-riot equipment being kept away from the protest.

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Since the September 11 attacks, in which almost 7,000 are either dead or missing, European Union member nations have pledged strong support for the U.S. right to respond with military action.

At a summit in Brussels European Union leaders supported the "targeted" retaliation against countries harbouring terrorists.

French President Jacques Chirac said. "We will not sit on the sidelines of the battle against this scourge."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair was seen to be playing a key role between his European partners and the U.S. -- holding a series of one-on-one meeting with national leaders before the Brussels summit.

Most of the bigger EU nations are also members of NATO, which has invoked its all-for-one self-defence clause for the first time in its history. That move said the attack on one member state, in this case the U.S., was considered to be an attack on all member states.

But the protesters in Liege fear military action against Osama bin Laden -- the suspected mastermind of the hijack attacks or Afghanistan where he has been living -- will only result in more deaths.

Activist Raoul Hebebouw told Reuters: "We think military action can only end in more deaths. We want Europe to pull out of NATO."

In London, about 4,000 demonstrators gathered peacefully outside the Ministry of Defence dressed in black and carrying pieces of paper saying: "Stand shoulder to shoulder for peace and justice. No more violence."

The banners were a reference to a Blair speech shortly after the hijack attacks in which Blair said the UK would stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States.

• EUleaders unite behind U.S.
September 21, 2001
• Blair ready for long battle
September 20, 2001
• Peace march in TImes Square
September 22, 2001

• Council of the European Union

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