Anger surges in Middle East

Published March 21, 2003

CAIRO, March 20: 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 US-led war against Iraq, with some demanding the expulsion of US ambassadors.

In Cairo, riot police used water cannon and batons against hundreds of rock-throwing protesters who tried to storm towards the US embassy.

“Our hearts are with the Iraqi people,” said Moataz, a 33-year-old doctor. “Saddam is a dictator, but 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, coalition, some citizens were markedly more supportive of Washington. As President George W. Bush filled a TV screen in a local coffee shop, saying the war on Iraq had begun, a burst of applause filled the room.

Wafaa, a government employee in Saudi Arabia, said: “I support the war if it is against the Iraqi government and doesn’t hurt the Iraqi people.”

CONCERN: Saudi Arabia, a regional heavyweight, said it was deeply concerned and hoped the conflict would end swiftly.

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 US 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.—Reuters

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