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Tuesday, 27 August, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Mubarak says Arabs oppose Iraq attack
President Hosni Mubarak
Mubarak fears destabilisation in the Middle East

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said that not a single Arab country wants war against Iraq.

Mr Mubarak told students in Alexandria that many innocent Iraqis would be killed, and that an attack had the potential to destabilise the whole region.

His speech comes after US Vice President Dick Cheney set out the case for a pre-emptive strike against Iraq.

Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein
The US says Saddam is developing weapons of mass destruction
President Mubarak is probably right in saying that none of the Arab states wants to see Iraq attacked.

It is rare to find an Arab consensus on any issue, but right now there is widespread agreement that a headstrong America has got its priorities wrong.

Instead of pursuing its obsession with Saddam Hussein and the issue of weapons of mass destruction, Arabs want America to work to solve the Palestinian problem.

They do not buy the argument - put forward by Mr Cheney in his forceful speech on Monday - that toppling Saddam would enhance America's ability to make peace between Israel and the Arabs.

Extremism feared

Most people in the Arab world share President Mubarak's fear that an attack on Iraq would lead to the death of many innocent civilians - and this in turn would enflame Arab public opinion.

In addition, a new war might destabilise Iraq, or even the region as a whole. It might produce fresh recruits for Osama Bin Laden and Islamic extremism.

The Americans are hoping Arab leaders will be more co-operative in private than they are being in public. They need bases in the Gulf from which to launch any attack against Iraq.

Saudi Arabia and Qatar have said no to the use of their territory - and even the Kuwaitis, second to none in their fear and loathing of Saddam Hussein, are nervous.

Moreover, Arab leaders are taking comfort from the degree of opposition to military action evident in Europe - and even within some policy circles in Washington.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's David Chazan
"This is the loudest call yet for military action from the Bush administration"
US Vice President Dick Cheney
"Should all his ambitions be realised, the implications would be enormous for the Middle East"

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27 Aug 02 | Middle East
27 Aug 02 | Business
27 Aug 02 | Middle East
26 Jul 02 | Middle East
07 Aug 02 | Middle East
16 Aug 02 | Middle East
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