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March 20, 2003
 
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Arabs Condemn U.S. Attack, but Don't Pity Saddam

Reuters


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U.S. Military Launches Attack on Iraq
Who's Calling the Shots Against Iraq?
Reporters On the Move with U.S. Forces
March 20

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 people, too."

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 the room.

"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 denies possessing.

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.

Copyright 2003 Reuters News Service. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

 
 
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