WASHINGTON - Antiwar activists, unions and other national organizations promise a large protest rally on the National Mall on Saturday against the Iraq war.

Groups say they have chartered hundreds of buses and expect thousands of people.

The protest is part of an effort that is to include lobbying congressional offices next week and rallies later across the country, organizers said yesterday.

Two previous demonstrations in New York City rivaled Vietnam-era protests in size. One was just before the invasion of Iraq in 2003; the other took place on the eve of the 2004 Republican National Convention.

Organizers hope this Saturday to focus attention on Iraq more intensely than ever, given the growing public opposition to the war and congressional efforts to repudiate it.

"We have more tools today" to organize large protests, said former Rep. Tom Andrews (D., Maine), an organizer of the rally. "We have an Internet culture, a network that can put information in people's hands."

The chief organizing group for the rally is an antiwar coalition, United for Peace & Justice. It has help from many of the National Organization for Women's 550 local chapters and dozens of union locals.

Scheduled speakers include members of Congress sponsoring antiwar measures; civil rights activist Jesse Jackson; veterans who oppose the war; and a voice from the anti-Vietnam past, Jane Fonda.

See more at the protest organizers' Web site via http://go.philly.com/protest EndText