[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Saturday, 30 December 2006, 17:27 GMT
No Arab euphoria at Saddam death
By Ian Pannell
BBC News, Cairo

Although the news of Saddam Hussein's execution was widely anticipated in the region, it has been greeted with a mixture of surprise and anger in some quarters - and notable silence in others.

Coffee served to those attending mourning meeting at a Bethlehem refugee camp.
Some Palestinians are mourning Saddam Hussein's demise

For many ordinary people in the Arab world, Saddam Hussein was admired if not particularly loved.

He was an active and strident supporter of the Palestinian cause and many regarded him as a strong leader who dared to defy both America and Israel. Images of the former leader having the noose pulled around his neck will shock many.

Libya has declared three days of national mourning.

Lawmakers and members of the militant Palestinian group, Hamas, have condemned the execution, with one calling it "a political assassination" that "violated international laws".

There is little reason to think the execution will change much in a region that heads into 2007 in a precarious state.

Opposition to the US-led invasion of Iraq was almost unanimous in the region. So perhaps it was no surprise that his trial was also regarded as unfair, as an exercise in 'victor's justice'.

Many Arab governments and people saw the legal process as instigated and controlled by Washington.

Despite the insistence that the trial, verdict and now execution was a purely Iraqi affair, few in the Middle East will believe that.

'Victory for Iraqis'

Saudi Arabia said it was surprised and dismayed at the timing of the execution on the first day of the Muslim festival of Eid al-adha. There was also criticism at how quickly the trial was over amid accusations it had been politicised.

But for those who crossed swords with Saddam, his execution is welcome news.

Iran fought a long and bloody war with Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides. The country's deputy foreign minister called it a "victory for Iraqis". Hamid Reza Asefi predicted it would lead to more violence in the short-term, but would ultimately benefit the country.

Kuwaiti man watches footage of Saddam Hussein going to the gallows
Official reaction in Kuwait has been muted

But the response from Kuwait, a country Saddam invaded in 1990, was more muted. The state-owned news agency reported the only official reaction which was that this was "a matter for Iraqis".

Most other governments in the region have remained completely silent. To be fair, this is the first day of Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday in the Islamic calendar. Even so, it seems many have chosen not to step onto what is widely regarded as extremely delicate territory.

There are real worries that the instability in Iraq will be made worse by Saddam's execution.

Sectarian tensions across the Middle East have risen since the US-led occupation and the fear is that this news could make that even worse.

However, while it is possible that the troubles of the region could be affected by a single event - the execution of Saddam Hussein is unlikely to be it.

There is violence and instability in Iraq, continuing tension between Israelis and Palestinians, a peace process that (at best) is at a stand-still and an ongoing political crisis in Lebanon.

The optimism many felt this time last year that real political change may finally start to trickle through the Middle East has all but vanished.

The execution of Saddam Hussein may prompt some reflection and probably plenty of analysis, but there is little reason to think it will change much in a region that heads into 2007 in a precarious state.

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific