— By Caroline Drees
CAIRO (Reuters) - Anger surged in the Arab world on Thursday as
many citizens condemned Washington for attacking Baghdad, but also
blamed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for courting destruction and
expressed sympathy for Iraq's people.
In Egypt, Syria and Libya, thousands of protesters vented their
fury at the start of the U.S.-led war against Iraq, with some
demanding the expulsion of U.S. ambassadors.
In Cairo, the Arab world's biggest city, riot police used water
cannon and batons against hundreds of rock-throwing protesters who
tried to storm toward the U.S. embassy.
"This war is a sin," said 43-year-old Cairo taxi driver Youssef,
as religious music blared from his car radio. "It's a sin because
ordinary Iraqis will suffer. It's not a sin because of Saddam, who
was too stubborn. He's got a head of stone."
"Our hearts are with the Iraqi people," said Moataz, a
33-year-old doctor. "Saddam is a dictator, but (U.S. President
George W.) Bush is also a dictator," he said, criticizing the
policies of Iraq's president and accusing Washington of riding
roughshod over international opinion.
Mus'ad al-Anza, a student in Riyadh, said: "The Americans say
they are against the president (Saddam) and not against the people,
but as far as I can see, they are against the president and the
In Kuwait, which was liberated from Iraqi occupation in 1991 by a
U.S.-led coalition, some citizens were markedly more supportive of
Washington. As President Bush filled a TV screen in a local coffee
shop, saying the war on Iraq had begun, a burst of applause filled
"Bush is a real man," Ahmad Hussein Ahmad said, fingering his
prayer beads. "His dad (former-President George Bush) liberated
Kuwait and now the son will liberate Iraq."
Wafaa, a government employee in long-term U.S. ally Saudi Arabia,
said: "I support the war if it is against the Iraqi government and
doesn't hurt the Iraqi people."
"DEEP CONCERN" AMONG ARAB STATES
Many regional states, including Saudi Arabia and Egypt which are
both vital U.S. allies, expressed concern about the war to oust
Saddam and rid Iraq of alleged weapons of mass destruction Baghdad
Saudi Arabia and Egypt said they hoped the conflict would end
swiftly and stressed the need to maintain Iraq's territorial
integrity. Egypt also urged for the protection of civilians.
Lebanese President Emile Lahoud said the war would force the
world into a "dark tunnel" that would be hard to escape. He also
called on "peace-loving countries" to help stop the war.
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, whose country hosts the
headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Fifth Fleet, said: "The war could be
won by one party, but peace should be achieved for all, and this is
the responsibility of all states."
In North Africa, Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali said
he regretted the outbreak of war and was worried about its
"disastrous consequences" for Iraq and the entire Middle East.
Morocco's King Mohammed called for respect for international law and
appealed to Moroccans to show restraint.
Algeria's ruling National Liberation Front called the war a
breach of international law which set a dangerous precedent.
Amr Moussa, the head of the 22-member Arab League, said it was a
"mournful day," and called for fast international and Arab action to
halt the war.
The Jeddah-based 56-member Organisation of the Islamic Conference
also called for an end to the attack, saying it could only lead to
bloodshed, ruin, instability and global terrorism.
Palestinian minister Saeb Erekat said he feared Israel might
exploit the war and increase a crackdown against a Palestinian
uprising while world attention was diverted.
Abdel-Aziz al-Rantisi, a leader of the Palestinian militant group
Hamas, said the war was an "ugly aggression" against Arabs and
Muslims, and called for "jihad" to expel American forces.
In non-Arab Iran, Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called the
unilateral U.S. military action illegitimate and unjustifiable.
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