PARIS – Activists in Tokyo carried toy guns filled with flowers, one banner at a Moscow rally read "Iraq isn't your ranch, Mr. Bush," and anti-war protesters in Paris shouted, "Stop Bush! Stop war!"
The slogans and banners were different at protests around the world Saturday, but the message to the United States and its allies was the same: Find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.
In Paris, the 6,000-strong march was the third nationwide demonstration since October. A Jan. 12 poll in the Le Journal du Dimanche newspaper showed 76 percent of those surveyed didn't want French troops to take part in a U.S.-led operation.
"You can see people are waking up when they see us marching," said Flore Boudet, a 21-year-old demonstrating with her classmates from the Sorbonne University.
In Moscow, Russians chanted "U.S., hands off Iraq!" and "Yankee, Go Home!" at a march outside the U.S. Embassy. One banner read: "U.S.A. is international terrorist No. 1."
Near London, about 200 people demonstrated outside the barbed wire fence of a military base. Elsewhere in Europe, a protest in Goteborg, Sweden, gathered 5,000 peaceful demonstrators, while a few hundred people marched in the German cities of Cologne and Bonn.
About 100 people from Turkey's Green Party demonstrated in Istanbul, throwing toy guns into a trash can. About 1,000 activists marched in Cairo, while several Pakistani cities had small anti-war demonstrations.
In the Middle East, a march in Cairo, Egypt, drew 1,000 people, while some of the 4,000 protesters in Beirut, Lebanon, carried posters of Saddam Hussein. Not all protesters were pushing for peace: In the Syrian capital, Damascus, some people shouted, "Our beloved Saddam, strike Tel Aviv," a refrain from the 1991 Gulf War.
In Tokyo, thousands of people marched in the glitzy Ginza shopping district, including a group of students wearing Bush face masks and toting toy guns filled with flowers. Some Japanese demonstrators played island folk songs on traditional string instruments from Okinawa, where more than half of the 47,000 U.S. troops in Japan are stationed.
On Friday, Saddam Hussein proclaimed his country ready for war and warned that his enemies risked "suicide" at Baghdad's gates. A day earlier, international weapons inspectors found 12 empty chemical warheads in Iraq — a find described by U.S. officials as "troubling and serious."
United Nations weapons inspectors were trying to determine if the discovery represented a violation of U.N. resolutions — a possible trigger for war.
The United States and Britain are marshaling a large military force in the Persian Gulf to back up their warnings against Saddam to give up weapons of mass destruction or face attack. Iraq claims it has no such weapons.
On Saturday, most of the protesters targeted their anger at President Bush, who says the United States has the right to attack even without U.N. backing. Many activists say a war against Iraq without United Nations approval would be illegal and immoral.
"It is illegal because under current circumstances there is no U.N. mandate for war," Gabriel Carlyle, a spokesman for the London-based lobby group Voices in the Wilderness, said Friday.
"It is immoral because hundreds and thousands of innocent people will die, and it is not about human rights and democracy but replacing Saddam Hussein with a more U.S.-friendly dictator," he said.