Hundreds of thousands of Australians are expected to protest against the looming war in Iraq at peace rallies around the country this weekend.

Peace marchers are expected to pack Melbourne city streets from 5pm this afternoon at the first of a series of rallies taking place around the world.

Protests will be held in most Australian capital cities and some regional centres on Saturday and Sunday, which is being marked around the world as an International Day of Action.

ACTU President Sharan Burrow called on union members and their families to peacefully participate in the rallies and to become involved in the growing campaign for peace.

The ACTU has condemned the Howard Government for its rush to be involved in a United States-led war against Iraq and called for all diplomatic options to be pursued.

“The Australian Government should be working for disarmament and peace through the United Nations, not dragging Australia into a US war,” Ms Burrow said.

The ACTU Executive passed a resolution last November to oppose any unilateral declaration of war with Iraq, condemn terrorism and support United Nations actions to disarm countries with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.

The times and locations of the major Australian peace rallies are:

Melbourne Friday February 14, 5pm State Library march to Federation Square

Perth Saturday February 15, 11am meet at Forrest Place GPO

Canberra Saturday February 15, 12 noon Garema Place, Civic

Sydney Sunday February 16, 12 noon meet at Hyde Park

Brisbane Sunday February 16, 11am meet at Roma Street Forum

Adelaide Sunday February 16, Vic Square for 12 noon march to Parliament House

Mt Gambier Sunday February 16, Vansittart Park for 12 noon march to Cave Gardens