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Last Updated: Monday, 15 December, 2003, 00:28 GMT
Capture divides the Arab world

Egyptians watching news of Saddam Hussein's capture in Cairo
Egyptians were glued to all available televisions in Cairo
Arab reaction to the arrest of Saddam Hussein has varied from euphoria to a sense of deep humiliation.

No Arab government will offer support for the former Iraqi leader as he awaits trial on war crimes charges.

But while some Arabs have welcomed his arrest, others are disappointed that he has fallen into American hands.

And others still are surprised that he failed to make a final stand before his capture, allowing himself to be humiliated.

In the Syrian capital Damascus, joy was mixed with disbelief.

People watched with bewilderment the footage of the former Iraqi leader being examined by an American military doctor.

I love him so much I can't stand watching it while he is in custody
Raafat Logman
Palestinian

One woman said it was incredible to see such a ruthless dictator fall so low.

The BBC's Kim Ghattas, in Damascus, says the capture is being seen there as proof that regardless of how strong they may appear, Arab leaders are not invincible.

While some Syrians thought it was a good thing Saddam Hussein had been caught, others described him as a coward who deserved his fate.

He had betrayed the Arabs by abandoning Baghdad instead of fighting to the end against the Americans, they told our correspondent.

'Put him in a cage'

The most positive reaction came in Kuwait, where people were overwhelmingly pleased to hear the news of the former dictator's arrest.

He should get the death penalty, which is the least he deserves
Rashid al-Osaimi
Saudi student
"There can never be a happier day than today," said civil servant Abdullah al-Shimmiri, whose brother went missing during the 1990-91 occupation.

"We wish they would put him in a cage and take him on a trip around the world. God humiliated him in that hole they found him in, the same way he humiliated others."

Many Arabs feel Saddam should pay the ultimate price.

"He should get the death penalty, which is the least he deserves," said Saudi student Rashid al-Osaimi.

Disbelief

But in the Egyptian capital Cairo, many people were critical of the arrest.

Sweets were distributed in Baghdad streets and shooting in the air by Iraqis was heard in expression of their joy
Al-Jazeera report

"They would have been better to capture [Israeli Prime Minister Ariel] Sharon, the real war criminal," said government employee Aziz al-Shaburi.

Some refused to believe the news, dismissing it as "American propaganda and lies".

There were also strong feelings among Palestinians, many of whom regard Saddam as a hero for his stand against Israel.

"I love him so much I can't stand watching it while he is in custody," said Gaza City resident Raafat Logman.

Public justice

BBC Middle East correspondent Paul Wood says an unpalatable fact for the Americans is that Saddam was seen as a rallying point for those who saw the US as an imperial power in the Middle East.

That is why it is so important for the Americans to put Saddam through a Nuremberg-style prosecution, our correspondent says.

They want a minute examination of what are held to be his many crimes:

  • The invasion of Kuwait
  • The war against Iran
  • The gassing of the Kurds
  • The mass executions of the Shia
  • Everyday acts of brutality by his secret police

The Americans also intend Saddam's trial to be a very important marker on the way not just to a democratic Iraq, but in spreading democracy throughout the whole region as well, our correspondent adds.

And for people throughout the Middle East, there are now two iconic images of American power.

The first is of Saddam's statue toppling to the ground in Baghdad on 9 April, when US forces gained full control of the Iraqi capital.

The second is of the pictures released on Sunday.

Saddam, white bearded, haggard and uncertain, undergoing examination by an American medic - his swagger and his authority visibly stripped away.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Bridget Kendall
"Some Palestinians especially feel loss and disappointment"



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