The first shots of war set off global protests on the streets and drew dismayed responses from world leaders yesterday. President Bush’s main allies stood firmly by him as U.S. flags burned from Berlin to Bangladesh.

A world woven together by satellite TV watched the opening salvos of the war, and responses ranged from gasoline hoarding in Katmandu to cheers for Saddam Hussein in Kashmir.

“The wrong decision has been taken. The war has begun. It must be ended as quickly as possible,” German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, a staunch anti-war voice, said in a televised address.

“The threat of terrorism is a fact,” said Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski, whose country backs Bush. “The world bears the joint responsibility and should show solidarity in fighting terrorism and proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.”

“Patience, patience, O Bush, tomorrow the Muslims will dig your grave,” demonstrators chanted in Cairo, where police used water cannons to keep protesters away from the U.S. Embassy.

Oil prices jumped yesterday – from $25.53 a barrel to $27.35 in London – on reports that oil wells in southern Iraq were sabotaged and burning.

Britain and Australia, the only nations to commit significant numbers of troops to the U.S.-led effort, resolutely stuck by Washington.

Protesters banged pots in Manila and daubed “Bush, your empire will eventually crumble” on walls in Caracas. They trashed a McDonalds restaurant in the Montparnasse district of Paris. They stoned the U.S. Embassy in Brussels, and threw bricks and eggs at a local party office of Spanish Prime Minister and Bush ally, Jose Maria Aznar. In Srinagar, capital of heavily Muslim Kashmir, schoolboys watched TV footage of explosions in Baghdad and cheered when Iraqi President Saddam Hussein appeared.

“Stupid war, mindless violence,” said a placard in a sea of 50,000 anti-war demonstrators converging on Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate.

For a few, especially Iraqi exiles, the start of war promised better times for Iraq.

In Cairo, Faisal Fikri excitedly channel-surfed for images of the first explosions in Baghdad.

It was “the moment I have been waiting for all my life – to see the despot gone,” said Fikri, who left Iraq in 1970.

In Sydney, Australia, protesters snarled traffic holding up signs saying “Disarm USA too.” At one point, three Iraqi Kurds pushed to the front of the rally, holding up pictures of a chemical weapons attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja in 1988.

“Saddam Hussein is not a person who should be defended,” said Robert Ashdi, 48, who fled northern Iraq for Australia along with three other family members in 1991. “I think people here don’t understand what they’re talking about.”

While few protesters or government leaders voiced sympathy for Saddam, people worried about ordinary Iraqis and prayed for a quick and low-casualty war.

“The thought now goes to the children, the families, those who run away, those who take shelter,” said Cardinal Pio Laghi, who recently met Bush as part of Pope John Paul II’s campaign against the war. “I feel a sense of frustration, fear, fright, especially thinking of the death that’s looming over those people.”

The pope dedicated his dawn Mass to peace.

In Pakistan, people crowded around TV sets, many of them siding with Iraq. “We are all Muslims and should go to Iraq for jihad. We should be ready to sacrifice our life for our religion,” said Nadeem Ahmed, 22, who was pushing a loaded vegetable cart.

“I’d like to see it over and done with as quickly as possible,” said Peter Ryan, 47, sunning himself on a London park bench. “My ideal scenario would be to see all the Iraqi troops just surrender.”

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