Global letter urges Bush to avoid Iraq war


More than 300 lawmakers and groups, including members of British premier Tony Blair's Labour Party and the Anglican church, called on U.S. President George W. Bush and other world leaders yesterday to avoid war in Iraq.

In a letter signed by peace activists, environmentalists, anti-nuclear campaigners and politicians, the protesters said nuclear states, especially the United States, should eradicate their own nuclear arms stocks before tackling others over weapons of mass destruction.

"The possession of nuclear weapons, whether by Iraq or else by the US, Russia, China, the UK, France, India, Pakistan and Israel is equally unacceptable," the letter said.

"As long as these countries continue to possess nuclear weapons, others will seek to do likewise."

The letter, sent to Bush, Blair and the leaders of Russia, France, Germany, Canada and Australia on the eve of the first U.N. weapons inspections in Iraq in four years, was signed by 318 organisations and politicians.

Ranging from Britain to Egypt, signatories included Anglican Church leaders, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, the U.S. Peace Council and green groups like Friends of the Earth Australia.

The 70 lawmakers included Frank Cook, Alice Mahon, David Drew and David Chayton of Blair's Labour party, several European Parliament members and others from around the world.

The signatories appealed to Washington not to launch a pre-emptive strike on Iraq with no basis in international law, and to seek a peaceful solution to its confrontation with Iraq through the United Nations.

They urged the United States to allow the U.N. weapons inspectors to conduct their work freely and to understand that weapons of mass destruction could only be eliminated under a "global norm where possession of WMD is unacceptable".

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