PEACE protesters will picket the first meeting of York's new-look city council tomorrow over the "war on terror" and the post-war situation in Iraq.

Activists from York Against The War (YATW) will demonstrate at the Guildhall before the historic ceremony that ushers in both the new City of York Council and the city's new Lord Mayor.

The demonstrators will be inviting councillors to sign a postcard that will be presented to York MP Hugh Bayley.

Their protest follows last month's YATW demo outside Mr Bayley's Holgate Road office.

The card demands that Mr Bayley should call on the British Government to end the occupation of Iraq and allow the Iraqi people to take control of their own affairs.

It also demands he campaigns against any progression of the "war on terror" and against "mass military spending".

YATW spokesman Rory Palmer said: "We hope to draw attention to the vast sums of money spent on the war on Iraq and any further spending as part of the so-called war on terrorism.

"That money could be used to increase funding into local government and local services."

Council leader Steve Galloway said: "They (the demonstrators) do not understand the difference between local and national government. A number of councillors here from both parties, including myself, did participate in anti-war demonstrations, but a number of those councillors are not pacifists.

"Making a decision on what is the right amount to spend is a difficult national decision.

"Purely on a personal basis I think the sooner the UN is involved in leading the return to democracy in Iraq the better."

Mr Bayley said he wanted to see the UN taking a lead role in the "long haul" that is rebuilding Iraq.

He said: "Britain has given $65m to the UN's Iraq appeal and the USA $405m, but Germany only $11m and France $5m, which is less than India.

"If, like me, York Against the War wants the UN in the driving seat they should press other countries to give the UN the funds they need, instead of criticising what British troops and aid workers are doing to help."

Mr Bayley said recent worldwide suicide bombings showed terrorism was still a serious threat, which YATW were "foolish" to ignore.

He said: "It isn't a choice between defending against terrorism or supporting public services. Labour is doing both."

Updated: 09:17 Wednesday, May 21, 2003