Possible US-led attack on Syria sparks rallies

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Opponents of US military action in Syria demonstrate at New York’s Times Square on Saturday, Aug. 31, 2013. AP

HOUSTON — Protesters around the world took to the streets Saturday to protest for and against a possible US-led attack on Syria as President Barack Obama announced he would seek congressional approval for such a move.

Obama said the United States should take action against Syria to punish it for what it says was a deadly chemical attack that killed more than 1,400 people launched by Syrian President Bashar Assad this month, but he wants Congress to debate the issue and take a vote. Obama has said any possible strike would be limited.

In Houston, home to a large population of Syrian-Americans, about 100 people lined up on opposite sides of a street in an upscale neighborhood to express opposing views on a possible US attack.

“We want any kind of action. The world has stood silently and it’s been too long. Something needs to be done,” said Tamer Barazi, a 23-year-old civil engineer who carried a Syrian flag and a sign stating “Syrian Americans for peace, democracy and freedom in Syria.”

Standing across the street in Houston’s sweltering heat were those opposing US intervention, outnumbering the supporters of an intervention. Some carried signs stating “We Don’t Want Obama’s War” and “Hands Off Syria.”

“How would you like another country to decide who is going to be the president of the United States?” asked 53-year-old Hisam Saker, a Syrian-American property manager who has lived in Houston for 33 years.

In Washington, as Obama addressed the nation, crowds of anti-war demonstrators gathered outside the White House. “Obama, hands off Syria” shouted the anti-war demonstrators, who carried yellow signs reading “No War On Syria.”

Across the street, Syrians and Syrian Americans who support U.S. action waved flags from their country and shouted for Assad’s ouster.

“The conflict’s been going on for, what, almost 2 years now. Estimates are 100,000 Syrian civilians have been killed and all of a sudden the U.S. government has manufactured the excuse of the use of chemical weapons in Syria to use that excuse to intervene in Syria,” said Tristan Brosnan, 25, of Washington.

In London, more than 1,000 protesters carrying Syrian flags and placards marched to Downing Street and rallied in Trafalgar Square.

And about 700 people turned out for an anti-war demonstration in Frankfurt, Germany, police said. Organizers said only a “sovereign, independent Syria free of foreign interference” would make it possible for the Syrian people to shape the country’s future.

At a protest organized by left-wing opposition parties in Amman, Jordan, Kawthar Arrar described any military intervention as “an aggression on the whole Arab world.” The protesters gathered outside the U.S. embassy, chanting slogans and setting fire to American and Israeli flags.

UN inspectors left Syria on Saturday after a four-day, on-site investigation in the area where the chemical attack is suspected.

The protesters in London hailed Thursday’s UK parliament vote against British participation as a victory.

“Chemical weapons are terrible weapons, but when you think of all the thousands of people that have been killed by British and American troops in Afghanistan and Iraq you realize that it isn’t true that another war would solve the problem,” former Labor Party lawmaker Tony Benn told the protesters.

Anti-war rallies were held in cities across the U.S. In Boston, more than 200 protesters demonstrated in the Boston Commons against the possible use of force against Syria by the U.S. They waved signs and chanted “Don’t Bomb Syria!” over and over again, and at least one speaker said congressional authorization wouldn’t make an attack acceptable.

More than two dozen protesters gathered in Little Rock at the Arkansas Capitol to oppose a possible U.S. attack. Some wore T-shirts proclaiming “NO US INTERVENTION IN SYRIA.”

“I had friends that died in Iraq, and I don’t want more people to die for nothing,” said Dominic Box, 23, expressing some of the fears of a war-weary public.

In downtown Chicago, about 40 people walked quietly in the rain, circling a sculpture in Daley Plaza. Some carried signs that read “No War In Syria” and “Shut It Down.”

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