Shiites and Sunnis unite for demonstration in London against violence in Iraq

Thousands of Muslims marched in the streets of London Saturday to show solidarity with Iraqis after a bomb attack on one of the holiest Shiite Islam sites.

The march through central London followed Wednesday's attack on the al-Askari shrine in Samarra, north of Baghdad. At least 165 people were believed killed in violence that followed the attack, including at least 36 on Saturday. Organizers said up to 15,000 people participated in the march through central London. Police, however, put the number at 5,500.

The march followed an emergency meeting of Muslim leaders, at the offices of the al-Khoei Foundation, the largest Shiite organization in Britain. Organizer Mohammed Al-Hilli said both Sunni and Shiite Muslims voiced their opposition to the attack on the shrine.

"The message was very clear ... They were calling for the perpetrators of such crimes to be brought to justice. They were saying there will not be civil war in Iraq," he said. Police in London said the event passed peacefully, reports AP.

Washington Post, President Bush made a round of phone calls to Iraqi political leaders Saturday in an effort to defuse the violence that has killed more than 150 people in the country since the destruction of the golden-domed Shiite Askariya Shrine in Samarra four days ago.

Bush "encouraged them to continue to work together to thwart the efforts of the perpetrators of the violence to sow discord among Iraq's communities," said Frederick Jones, a spokesman for the White House's National Security Council, according to news agency reports.

In a symbolic gesture, Shiite and Sunni leaders held hands and then prayed after the talks at the Abu Hanifa mosque in Baghdad, the Reuters news agency reported from Baghdad.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry announced that the ban on all vehicular traffic will be continued in Baghdad and its suburbs for 24 hours from 6 a.m. Sunday. The ban was lifted for three other Iraqi provinces, Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said at a news conference, according to reports.

Sunni leaders say Shiite militias affiliated with political parties have been allowed to rampage through the streets unchecked by the army and police. The Sunnis, in turn, have hastily organized groups of local men to defend their neighborhoods from attack.

O.Ch.