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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 9 April, 2003, 14:55 GMT 15:55 UK
Mid-East reacts to fall of Baghdad
As scenes of jubilation at the US advance are beamed out of Baghdad, BBC correspondents gauge reaction in the Arab world.

Cairo :: Heba Saleh
BBC correspondent in Cairo

There may be excited crowds welcoming the Americans in some areas of Baghdad, but for many in the Arab world this is still a black day.

It is not that anyone is mourning the collapse of the regime of Saddam Hussein, but the Americans are still being seen as foreign occupiers.

"It is only the thieves and the looters who are celebrating," said one Islamist lawyer in Cairo. "The Americans have gobbled up an Arab country before our very eyes," he said.

This is likely to be the view taken by most Arabs. Governments in the region however must be thankful that pictures of Iraqi hospitals overflowing with civilian casualties may be about to disappear from their screens.

The military campaign is nearing its end and that can only have a calming effect on angry populations across the Arab world, but almost certainly this war will leave a bitter aftertaste in Arab mouths.

Many will see it as yet another sign of Arab weakness. The Americans say they want to bring democracy to Iraq, but for the moment Arab public opinion refuses to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Kuwait City :: Ryan Dilley

Kuwaitis are gathering at dowanias - clubs where they smoke shisha water pipes, drink tea and chat.

Tonight the talk is only of the fall of Saddam Hussein's statue in Baghdad.

"All of Kuwait is happy," is the message repeated again and again.

Kuwait is a nation where hate of Saddam Hussein is deeply ingrained.

Public buses carry posters celebrating the liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi rule in 1991. Videos of atrocities carried out during the occupation are played on television every day.

Kuwaitis have been vilified in the Arab world for supporting the US led war but locals now feel vindicated by TV pictures of jubilant Iraqis stomping on images of Saddam Hussein.

"Other Arabs have hurt the Iraqi people by supporting Saddam Hussein. Only we, a small country, had the courage to stand up to him," says one man.

"Just as we are grateful to the British and the Americans for liberating us from Saddam the Iraqis will thank the coalition too."

The apparent fall of Baghdad has upset some in Kuwait. "We will miss watching the Iraqi information minister - we enjoyed his lies."

Amman :: Caroline Hawley

I'm in a café that's frequented by Iraqi exiles, and with me there's one exile who's been watching the pictures on Al-Jazeera Television of a man beating a picture of Saddam Hussein with a shoe, and he had tears in his eyes.

Another exile said: "We feel as if we've been let out of prison". But I must say among Jordanians there's a real sense of disbelief. They say: "How is it possible that people defended Basra for two weeks, and Baghdad goes in only two days?"

Another man told me it was the saddest news he'd ever heard, because it opened the door to British and American colonialism throughout the region. He said: "God protect us from what will come".

So very mixed feelings amongst Jordanians and Iraqi exiles, who, while jubilant, are also concerned about what the future now holds, and the current chaos in their country.

There has been no official response to the images of cheering Iraqis so far. Jordan has essentially been walking a tightrope, it knows its people are very anti-war, and it is very careful not to upset the Iraqis because it gets a substantial amount of free or cheap Iraqi oil.

But on the other hand it doesn't want to upset the Americans and it has been hosting American troops so it's been difficult. It will be interesting now to see what the official reaction is.

Tehran :: Miranda Eeles

I've been watching the state news channel here in Tehran for the last couple of hours, and there has not been one picture of the scenes of jubilation in Baghdad at all.

This is in keeping with the state coverage so far, which has been very pro-Iraq, very pro-Saddam Hussein. So it's quite difficult to gauge a reaction from the Iranians.

Over the last couple of days there have been anti-war demonstrations - although very small - and this comes after a very muted reaction at the beginning of the war.

There was one demonstration outside the British embassy which comprised a couple of busloads of people shouting "Down with America", "Down with Britain".

Damascus :: Kim Ghattas

Syrian state television is not showing any of those pictures. Obviously Syria is very much against the war, and after having warned about the consequences of the war the state television has chosen not to show any pictures of jubilant crowds.

They are keeping to their official line that the international community is still condemning the war. But some Syrians watching Al-Jazeera Television in some of the shops are saying simply that it was "very bad" to see American troops in Iraq.

Secretly many people here, especially officials, were hoping the war would last a long time. They wanted to be proven right that this war would be a catastrophe for the Iraqi people.

They were also perhaps hoping for negative consequences inside Iraq because the longer the war took, the longer the Americans would be busy with Iraq and the less likely to turn their attention to Syria.

America has of course issued a long list of countries that they were going to focus on in the Arab world, and Syria was worried that it could be next on Washington's target list.

So certainly there is worry here that if this is the beginning of the end, the US could shift its attention to other countries in the region with which it has issues to solve.

The BBC's David Sells
"Arabs are generally anti-Saddam but pro-Iraqi"


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