Australians rally against NATO bombing

MELBOURNE: June 6 (South News) -Thousands of students, trade unionists and Serbian Australians held rallies around the country Sunday, condemning the bombing and urging NATO countries to pay for repairing the damage.

More than 3000 protestors took their protest to the US consulate in Melbourne  and symbolically blasted the site with air raid sirens and the sound of bombing of  Belgrade from Real Audio posted on the internet.

Joan Coxsedge, former MLA, said it was Nato that has been doing the ethnic cleansing in Yugoslavia and the US has targeted the Non-aligned nation ever since President Tito's death.

Many marchers who wore signs printed with a bulls-eyes target with a peace symbol in the centre chanted slogans calling for a stop to the bombing and help for the expected Serbian refugees from Kosovo .
Other speakers from the Serbian Australian community blasted the Australian press for their biased coverage of Nato aggression.

Rally organizer Gregory Dower told  protesters in Melbourne their campaign should be directed against British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Blair said Friday there would be no reconstruction aid for Serbia while President Slobodan Milosevic remained in power.

``Blair, the man full of charisma, is the man behind this aggression,'' Dower said. ``For the last two and a half months, we have directed our protests over NATO bombing against the United States. Now we must redirect them against the British Empire.''

More than 2000 protesters condemning the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia marched in Sydney today calling on the western powers to give aid to Serbian refugees and burned NATO flags outside the British Consulate.

Paul Matters of the South Coast Labor council addressed the crowd. "Our own miserable Prime Minister Howard, they talk of nothing but human rights, they talk about human rights just as the missiles come in," he siad.

The Australians for Peace in Yugoslavia Committee has vowed to continue the rallies even though peace may be at hand. The committee says it does not not want NATO to forget the Serbians killed in the air strikes.

Australian Serbs and representatives from the Greens, the Communist Party of Australia and union groups were amoung the demonstrators

Sydney rally organiser Ian Rintoul said NATO had spent millions of dollars on bombing Serbia and it should now pour money into helping Serbians who had lost homes and livelihoods in the bombing campaigns.

"Money was spent by NATO on bombing and it now should be put into the refugees," Mr Rintoul said. "It is sheer hypocrisy of NATO to cry crocodile tears over refugees in Kosovo and now not help these refugees."

In Brisbane, more than 800 people attended a similar rally for peace in Yugoslavia, calling on both sides to lay down their arms and negotiate a settlement.

Organised by the recently formed Concerned Australians for Peace, spokeswoman Victoria, who did not want her surname published, said the group was non-political, non-partisan and non-sectarian.

Today's rally coincided with International Children's Day "to highlight the fact children are being needlessly killed in Yugoslavia", she said. Bombing did not discriminate, killing and maiming all citizens, she said.

"There are 26 separate national communities living in Yugoslavia and NATO is killing people and children and destroying basic infrastructure," Victoria said. "We ask for the sake of humanity, the environment and future generations, that this be ended now," she said.

"Humankind is capable of practising conflict resolution using words, not weapons of mass destruction."

Concerned Australians for Peace were also critical of the Australian media which, they said, had shown "selective compassion" only for the Albanians.

Members of Perth's Serbian community are planning a peaceful presence outside the U-S Consulate today.

Vladimir Milan, a spokesman for the Australian Serbian National Federation, says the rally was organised before the news of a possible end to the Kosovo conflict.
But Mr Milan says the organisers still believe that it is important to show that Australian Serbs want a peaceful settlement of the crisis.

He said the bombing in Yugoslavia has killed a large number of people and caused enormous damage.

"Infrastructure was destroyed and communications," he said. "There is no bridge left alone that is whole.

"There is no hospital left, there is no school left and I would say a foundation of all the buildings around the country are shaken so that needs rebuilding."People attending the rally will assemble outside the Perth Concert Hall at 1:00pm AWST this afternoon.

The rallies are part of an international day of action, with rallies taking place in other Australian capitals as well as cities around the world.

In Washington, former Attorney General Ramsey Clark urged NATO's abolition and an end to what he called American warmongering as  thousand of protesters demonstrated Saturday against the war in Yugoslavia.

``We've got to stop the fanning of flames of war by the U.S.,'' said Clark, a longtime peace activist. ``We've got to abolish NATO.''

The U.S.-European alliance fosters war and is ``a threat to life on Earth,'' Clark said in an address to about 30,000 protesters outside the Pentagon. The sign on the dais below him read: ``Stop U.S./NATO Bombing. Hands Off Yugoslavia.''

Protesters who marched from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial to the Pentagon carried signs branding President Clinton a war criminal. All around the red-blue-and-white Serb banner, more than 30,000 anti war demonstrators who took part in today's "March on the Pentagon," billowed from the top of their lungs, "Yu-go-sla-via! Yu-go-sla-via!"

In London thousands of protesters on Saturday attended rallies in London to protest against NATO's bombing campaign. The march and rally, which is the third national protest in Britain organized by the Committee for Peace in the Balkans and supported by the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, lasted for about one and a half hours.

In a speech to around 8,000 people gathered outside the Imperial War Museum, Parliamentary Member (MP) Alice Mahon, chairman of the Committee for Peace in the Balkans, urged NATO to stop bombing "in order to allow peace discussions to proceed."

Playwright Harold Pinter also addressed at the protest. He described the current peace talks as a "sham."
"In my view, it has been a totally unwarranted war. In the first place, it's immoral because it's entirely outside the perimeters of international law - committing thousands of atrocities," he said.
"I think this peace isn't really peace at all," the playwright said.