Protesters massed in London yesterday to denounce British involvement in the Iraq war, as emotional anti-war demonstrators filled city streets across Europe, the Middle East and Asia.

Demanding "Blair Out!" and "Bring Our Boys Home!", placard- waving demonstrators gathered peacefully in central London's Hyde Park to put pressure on British Prime Minister Tony Blair's government, as new explosions rocked the outskirts of Baghdad.

"I think Blair has gone totally against the wishes of the British people," said protester Rick Edwards, out with his eight-year-old daughter for a rally that organisers said swelled to at least 250,000 people, but which police put at only "upwards of 60,000".

Blair's commitment of 45,000 British troops alongside nearly a quarter of a million American forces for a war without UN blessing has divided Britain and put Blair in political peril.

Protesters marched, mostly peacefully, to condemn the war in other European cities including Berlin, Paris, Madrid, Lisbon, Stockholm, Helsinki, Amsterdam and Berne.

But in the Middle East, anger at the war and its potential to destabilise the region was very near the surface as thousands of Arabs protested for a third day.

With live footage of explosions and burning buildings in Iraq beamed into most Arab homes, emotions were high over what many consider a sinister plan to dominate the Arab world.

"Did you see all those bombs falling on TV? All the poor people? And for what? America wants to subjugate the entire region for the sake of Israel. They want to bring the Arabs to their knees," 50-year-old Egyptian housewife Samia said.

In Egypt, the region's most populous country with almost 70 million people, thousands of students staged anti-war rallies at universities amid tight police security.

While most Arabs have little time for Saddam Hussein, some 10,000 Palestinians in Gaza marched through the streets holding pictures of the Iraqi President. "We are with you, Saddam Hussein, and the people of Iraq," they chanted.

Police in the northwest African country of Mauritania fired tear gas to disperse thousands of anti-war protesters, who poured onto the streets of the capital Nouakchott chanting "Bush is a butcher" after Friday Muslim prayers at the city's mosques.

In France and Germany, whose governments have opposed the war, demonstrators were out in force. In Paris, Palestinian and Kurdish supporters joined anti-war activists, students and left-wing parties in street protests numbering some 80,000 people.

Across France anti-war demonstrations drew thousands more, prompting a massive police operation.

Shouting "Bush, Blair stop la guerre" (Bush, Blair stop the war) and some carrying banners saying "Yankee, go home", several thousand protesters headed towards the Place de la Nation in eastern Paris escorted by police.

In Germany some 100,000 took to the streets, including some 40,000 in Berlin where demonstrators marched near the American embassy and shouted demands to end the conflict.

Skirmishes broke out between demonstrators and police outside a US military base in Stuttgart, where 800 protesters gathered. Police used truncheons to remove some sit-down strikers in front of the US European command headquarters.

In Germany's financial capital Frankfurt some 18,000 Kurds from across Europe rallied to protest the war and demand a free Kurdistan. Thousands of anti-war protesters filled the streets in Heidelberg, Mannheim, Cologne and Düsseldorf.

In Lisbon, three former Portuguese prime ministers attended the start of an anti-war demonstration that police estimated to number 35,000.

In Vienna, a city of 1.6 million, about 25,000 marched against the war, past the US and British embassies, police said. In Amsterdam, some 20,000 marched on the US consulate.

In northern Switzerland, a young Iraqi boy waving a sign saying "No War" threatened to kill himself by jumping off a bridge on to the road below, but was brought to safety with the help of an Arabic-speaking passerby, police said.

People in Nordic countries also came out against the war, with an unprecedented demonstration of 20,000 in Finland, including families with baby strollers. Some 30,000 hit the streets in militarily non-aligned Sweden.