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Protesters demand troop withdrawal

Hundreds of anti-war protesters brought the centre of the Scottish capital to a standstill as they demanded UK and American forces be withdrawn from Iraq.

Up to a thousand people made their way down Edinburgh's Royal Mile and past the Scottish Parliament before staging a brief sit-down protest a hundred yards from the US Consulate.

After proceeding along Princes Street, the crowd gathered on the Mound for a rally, where various speakers called for Tony Blair to bring the troops home.

Rose Gentle, whose 19 year old son Gordon, a Fusilier, was killed in a roadside bomb in Basra last year, Scottish Socialist leader Colin Fox and Lindsey German, convenor of the Stop the War Coalition, addressed the crowds.

Mrs Gentle recalled her recent meeting with fellow campaigning military mother Cindy Sheehan in America and said an increasing number of soldiers' families, and the wider public, wanted troops sent home by Christmas.

A vocal critic of the Prime Minister, Mrs Gentle said she was disgusted that he had not yet agreed to meet her following her son's death in July 2004.

"I think Tony Blair is frightened of the military families because I don't think he can answer the questions they want answered," she added.

Mr Fox claimed recent polls, including a secret survey conducted by the Ministry of Defence in Iraq, showed that Iraqis and the British and American publics wanted coalition troops to leave.

"If Tony Blair is a democrat he will respect the democratic wishes expressed by people in Iraq, Britain and America," the Socialist leader and Lothians MSP said.

Recalling this week's Government defeat over its plans to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days, Mr Fox added: "Tony Blair's days are numbered.



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