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Saturday, 9 November, 2002, 04:55 GMT
Cautious Arab response to UN move
Iraqis walk outside Baghdads Umm al-Maarek mosque on Friday
Arab states are concerned at the US approach on Iraq
The Arab world has given a cautious response to the new United Nations Security Council resolution on disarming Iraq.

Arab League spokesman Hisham Yussef simply said the regional group "respects Security Council resolutions" and that the repercussions of the vote on the new resolution would be discussed at Arab League talks in Cairo over the weekend.

Syrias deputy UN Ambassador Fayssal Mekdad at the Security Council meeting
Even Syria voted in favour of the new resolution, which passed unanimously
Under the resolution - voted through unanimously on Friday - weapons inspectors will be sent back into Iraq and there will be "serious consequences" if Iraqi President Saddam Hussein fails to comply with UN requirements.

The Arab world had previously voiced its concern at the aggressive US approach towards Iraq.

But the BBC's correspondent in Cairo says Arab governments are likely to press Iraq to comply with the new resolution.

While the Arabs still mistrust America's intentions, they know that without Iraqi compliance there is no hope of averting an American-led war, our correspondent says.

Backing the US

Egypt, a key US ally in the region, has pledged to keep lobbying Iraq to comply with the Security Council.

"President Hosni Mubarak has urged the Iraqi Government since the start of the crisis to respect the UN resolutions," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said after a telephone conversation with US Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Iraq is likely to hear similar advice from other Arab governments, according to the BBC's Cairo correspondent, Heba Saleh.

But the daily al-Jumhuriyah took a more sceptical view of the UN move.

"Unfortunately, America has succeeded, as expected and as it planned, in winning the support of those opposed [to an Iraq resolution]," read an editorial on Saturday.

"Now everyone is repeating that the ball is in Iraq's court. Therefore, if it wants safety it must implement the 'impossible' clauses. Otherwise, it is annihilation and extermination of its children, elderly, women and youths," the paper said.

The only Arab representative on the UN Security Council, Syria, backed the new UN resolution, although it looked likely to abstain until the last minute.

Inspectors go to work in Baghdad in November 1998
The new resolution includes the resumption of weapons inspections
Syria strongly opposes any attack on Iraq and has improved relations with its neighbour over the past five years.

It expressed reservations on the draft resolution and urged to delay the vote, which the council refused.

But in the end Syria capitulated under pressure from the both the Americans and the French.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a message on Friday to Foreign Minister Farouk el-Sharaa, in which he urged Syria to vote in favour of the resolution, saying a unanimous vote would serve to avoid a future military confrontation.

According to the al-Thawrah newspaper, "Syria has concluded that voting for the resolution moves the region away from the premeditated intentions of a military strike on Iraq which would only benefit Israel and the enemies of the Arab nation".

Iraq, however, will be furious that Syria voted in favour of what Baghdad has called a resolution for war.

A BBC correspondent in Damascus says the move could put an end to the smuggling of cheap Iraqi oil through Syria.

Jordan's dilemma

Other Arab countries are also anxious about regional stability in the wake of the new UN resolution.

Jordan has been calling for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, but is already bracing itself for unrest if a war erupts.

During the Gulf war in 1991, Jordan did not participate in the coalition against Iraq, and massive pro-Iraq demonstrations rocked the country.

This time around, Jordan cannot afford to upset the US, and BBC correspondent Kim Ghattas says it is unlikely the kingdom will show any support for Iraq.

But movements such as the Islamic Action Front have said the US is trying to dominate the Middle East and have called on Muslims in Jordan to fight US interests if there is a war.

On Saturday, the daily al-Dustur voiced Jordanian fears.

"We hope the new resolution is implemented in order to spare Iraq and its people, as well as the region and its peoples, the danger of a catastrophic war which, if it breaks out, God forbid, would destroy all." it wrote.

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See also:

08 Nov 02 | Americas
07 Nov 02 | Americas
08 Nov 02 | Middle East
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