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 Tuesday, 17 December, 2002, 22:34 GMT
Arab reaction to Iraq declaration
The Arab League in Cairo
The Arab world opposes a war against Iraq

The Arab world is united in opposing an American led war against Iraq - but divided between those states which think such a war is avoidable, and those believing it inevitable.

The Saudis think US President George W Bush is bluffing: a bluff they think he has to make convincing if it is going to work.

That was the view conveyed to me by a senior Saudi official who added that he thought Saddam would blink first by co-operating fully with the weapons inspectors.

So on the day UN officials started reading through the thousands of pages of Iraqi documentation of their weapons programs, Saudi Arabia and Iraq were restoring telephone communications after a break of 12 years.
A street scene in Cairo
Many Arabs accuse the US of arrogance

That came after the Saudis sent a 100-strong trade delegation to the Baghdad trade fair and opened a border crossing closed since Iraq's invasion of Kuwait.

Ibrahim Fouda, director of the Saudi Exports Council, said the Riyadh was looking to boost trade and economic links with Iraq.

There was less optimism in Lebanon, where the headline in the daily an-Nahar, was "Nothing will change the US decision".

"The US media campaign against Iraq and its regime escalates as if the inspections were not taking place," said the newspaper, "and they will not change the basic US decision to deliver a direct military blow aimed at toppling the regime".

In Jordan, the Addustour daily newspaper speaks of "Iraqi patience in the face of American arrogance".

The longer the Iraqis can delay, the newspaper argues, "the more Bush administration loses the political and moral support and international legitimacy to cover any aggression".

The paper continues: "We therefore demand Iraq to cling to patience, wisdom, and farsightedness in dealing with the inspectors, as it is the case now".

In Iraq itself, the front page of the pro-government al-Jumhuriyah, is, as you would expect, encouraging for the regime.

"Demonstrations in European countries against US threats against Iraq," reads the first headline.

The second is: "Thirty thousand of the American elite call for resistance to aggressive policy of the evil US Administration".

Inside, an editorial says, that by targeting Iraq, America is targeting the whole Arab nation.

"The American plan, with its open and secret facets, seeks to change the map of the Arab world", it says.

It is an allegation which is - despite denials from the Americans - widely believed on the Arab street and even in many state rooms and government offices around the region.

See also:

25 Sep 02 | Conflict with Iraq
17 Dec 02 | Middle East
17 Dec 02 | Middle East
13 Dec 02 | Middle East
12 Dec 02 | Middle East
16 Dec 02 | Politics
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