Anti-war protesters march in London on eve of Syria strikes vote


Thousands of protesters gathered in central London on Tuesday in an effort to stop Britain joining air strikes on Islamic State targets in Syria, a day before a parliamentary vote on the move.

A crowd of around 4,000 marched from the Houses of Parliament in Westminster to the headquarters of the ruling Conservative party and main opposition Labour party nearby.

"We're here to say one simple thing, don't bomb Syria. Don't do what you did in 2001, 2003 and 2011," the Stop the War Coalition protest movement's Lindsey German told the crowd, referring to British involvement in wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya.

"Don't go and bomb a country where we make the war even worse."

Parliament looks set to vote in favour of joining the bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) jihadists in Syria on Wednesday, paving the way for sorties by British jets to start within days. Prime Minister David Cameron insists military action is needed to prevent attacks like the ones that killed 130 people in Paris last month, but many experts, lawmakers and members of the public remain sceptical.

"It will kill Syrians – the only way to stop ISIS is to cut off their funding and their weapons... My heart cries for the Syrian people," said protester Jenny Eyeles, 65, using an alternative acronym for IS. Demonstrators chanted "Don't bomb Syria, no more wars" and carried placards with messages including "Stop the fear, stop the hate, stop the war", in the second major London protest over Syria within days. Around 5,000 people had taken to the streets on Saturday.

Cameron is keen to join allies France and the United States in bombing IS targets in Syria, but has held off for months from announcing a vote after he was humiliated in 2013 when parliament rejected British military action against Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.

The Paris attacks have since swayed some lawmakers, including Labour politicians, who have been allowed a free vote on the issue despite opposition to air strikes by anti-war party leader Jeremy Corbyn.

Underscoring divisions over the move, parliament's foreign affairs committee on Tuesday said Cameron had "not adequately addressed" its concerns on Syria air strikes. The committee has questioned the legality of the move, its effectiveness in the absence of reliable allies on the ground and its usefulness in the context of finding a diplomatic solution to the crisis.   (AFP)

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