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Last Updated:  Thursday, 10 April, 2003, 09:55 GMT 10:55 UK
'Black day' in Arab world

Heba Saleh
BBC correspondent in Cairo

Statue of Saddam Hussein pulled down in Baghdad
Analysts say Iraqis may turn against the coalition
There may be excited crowds welcoming the Americans in 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's 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.

Commenting on the scenes of jubilation in some areas of Baghdad, Egyptian political scientist Mohamed El Sayed Said said: "The people of Iraq have suffered extensively. But this does not negate the fact that now they are faced with occupying invaders who have disregarded international law, and bombarded civilians."

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.

Calming effect

The military campaign is nearing its end and that can only have a calming effect on angry populations across the Arab world.

More than 5,000 Egyptians have put down their names in the past few days to go and fight as volunteers against the coalition forces in Iraq.

Many are middle-aged family men who have been deeply moved by the TV footage of coalition forces bombing Iraqi cities and killing or injuring civilians.

I do not exclude the resurgence of resistance by ordinary people
Dr Mostapha Kamel El Sayyed
The authorities here, like elsewhere in the region, were also extremely discomfited by demonstrations in which an outraged public denounced both the war and the leaders of the Arab world who could not stand up to the United States.

Egyptians have cheered every act of Iraqi resistance no matter how small.

They had been expecting fierce street to street fighting in Baghdad, with the Iraqis finally managing to inflict heavy casualties on the coalition.

Now they are disappointed at the ease with which Baghdad has fallen to the Americans.

Analysts say this war will almost certainly leave a bitter aftertaste in Arab mouths. Many will see it as yet another sign of Arab weakness.

'Puppet regime'

Some are now predicting that, after the first flush of relief at the demise of the regime of Saddam Hussein, the Iraqis will turn against the coalition.

Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak
Mubarak says Iraqis must govern their own country
"I do not exclude the resurgence of resistance by ordinary people," said Dr Mostapha Kamel El Sayyed, a professor of political science at Cairo University.

"We have never heard of a foreign occupation that has been welcomed."

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has said that Iraqis should take over the government of their own country as soon as possible.

"The fact of Iraq being governed by its sons, and as soon as possible, is the quickest way to ensure stability for the Iraqi people," said Mr Mubarak.

Like other leaders in the region, he knows that public opinion in his country will find it hard to accept the presence of American military men at the helm in Iraq, even for a temporary period.

Americans say they want to bring democracy to Iraq but, for the moment, the Arab public refuses to give them the benefit of the doubt.

The expectation here is that the Americans will install a puppet regime which will allow the US to control Iraq's considerable oil resources.



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