Heeding a call by the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC), millions stopped work at midday March 14, in a 15-minute protest against a possible attack on Iraq. Similar actions took place on other continents.

In its call for the protests, the ETUC Executive Committee said “the rush to war in Iraq is not justified,” and the “legitimate goal of the international community to disarm the Saddam Hussein regime can be effectively pursued by other means and in the framework of the United Nations.” It urged that the UN inspections be allowed the resources and time needed, and called on Iraq to provide “prompt and unrestricted cooperation.”

The ETUC also encouraged workers to participate in the March 15 demonstrations, and said preparations for a March 21 day of action were intensifying in the face of the looming war threat.

Among the actions:

In Germany, where popular opposition to a war is overwhelming, production was halted briefly at three Volkswagen factories and a DaimlerChrysler plant. In the eastern city of Halle, trams halted in mid-route.

Italian unions said workers downed tools throughout the country, from Sicily in the south to Turin in the north. Activists hung a 6-yard rainbow peace flag from a bridge in Pisa, while workers in numerous factories sounded horns to mark the strike. Protesters have already been blocking road and rail lines against shipments of military goods bound for the Gulf.

Workers at hundreds of workplaces in the Czech Republic signed anti-war resolutions, and production was interrupted at a number of factories. Zdenek Malek, head of international relations for the CMKOS labor federation, said members of the Czech Women’s Union also responded to the trade unions’ appeal. Not only were protests held all over the country, he said, but in many places even employers joined the actions.

In Switzerland, thousands of workers from a number of sectors observed five minutes of silence in protest against the impending war. Rolf Zimmerman, secretary of the Swiss Trade Union Federation, said workers took part in Bern, Zurich, Geneva and other cities throughout the country. A protest in Zurich drew some 7,000 participants.

In other actions related to the March 14 strike, Russian Greenpeace climbers hung a large poster that read “Veto War” on a span of a bridge across the Moscow River against the background of St. Basil’s Cathedral and the golden-domed Kremlin.

Hundreds marched in Bishkek, capital of the former Soviet republic of Kyrgyzstan, carrying banners reading, “Do not draw us into war” and “The peaceful sky over Kyrgyzstan is not for war.” Kyrgyzstan has been hosting hundreds of U.S.-led “anti-terror” troops from several Western countries at a civilian airport outside Bishkek. The Kyrgyz government insists the conditions for using the facilities only allow operations in Afghanistan, not in Iraq.

In Egypt, about 4,000 demonstrators gathered at Cairo’s Al-Azhar mosque, the highest authority in the Sunni Islamic world, calling on Arab leaders to form a common front to avert a U.S.-led war.

The Communist Party of Turkey organized a demonstration March 12 in front of the main gate of the Port of Iskenderun, where U.S. troops had been unloading equipment and supplies in anticipation of a parliamentary okay for the U.S. to use the country‘s facilities in a northern invasion route into Iraq. Hundreds of party members entered the port carrying flags and posters, and hung a banner demanding U.S. troops leave Turkey. Some Turkish troops fired on the demonstrators though there were no reports of injuries. All demonstrators were detained for several hours by the Iskenderun police.