NAVAL STATION ROTA, Spain — Flag-waving anti-war activists in rubber boats chased a U.S. Coast Guard cutter briefly as it left the Navy base pier in Rota Thursday before Spanish patrols shooed them away.

Members of the activist group Greenpeace trailed the cutter Dallas with yellow banners reading “No to War” in Spanish. As the activists crept closer to the ship and the base’s port, a Spanish Civil Guard helicopter buzzed overhead and patrolmen in Zodiac boats shadowed them.

The demonstration in the bay is the latest anti-war effort by Greenpeace, an activist group known for its ardent support of environmental-protection initiatives. The group has been an outspoken opponent of any military action to disarm Iraq and plans to take its message to ports that are considered important to the U.S. military buildup in the Middle East.

More than 200,000 American troops are in the Persian Gulf region prepared for a possible confrontation with Iraq.

Greenpeace stopped in southern Spain on its way to Italy and Turkey.

The group’s flagship, Rainbow Warrior, arrived in the nearby port city of Cádiz earlier this week, sparking speculation that its members would target the Rota base. Since then, U.S. and Spanish military security officials kept a close eye on the 159-foot schooner with an arching rainbow on its side.

Activists in the two-man boats crossed the bow of the Dallas around 9:50 a.m., shortly after it left the port, according to a U.S. Navy statement. Navy officials referred all questions about the cutter to Coast Guard officials, who could not be reach Thursday afternoon.

Spanish authorities kept the activists from the cutter, allowing the ship to leave the bay. Base spokesman Lt. Corey Barker said American security personnel were not involved in the incident but were ready to help if needed.

The activists never got close to the Spanish base, which Spain shares with about 3,000 permanently stationed U.S. active-duty military personnel.

The U.S. military also has a small number of Air Force personnel at Morón Air Base southeast of Seville.

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