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EDITIONS
 Saturday, 18 January, 2003, 21:30 GMT
Regional media fear war in Iraq
President Saddam Hussein
The Iraqi leader remains defiant

As chief UN weapons inspector Hans Blix and International Atomic Energy Agency Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei visit Baghdad on Sunday, the regional media have been brooding over the Iraqi issue and a possible US-led war.

Mr Blix says that Iraq has not given his inspectors "genuine cooperation".

The Iraqi people and their leaders are one and that there can be no free Iraq without Saddam Hussein

Babil
Egypt's Al-Ahram says the discovery of empty chemical warheads and Mr Blix's statements indicate that "the real signs of war have appeared on the horizon."

It describes the statements as "a provocation to Iraq".

"The weapons inspectors and their chief have a responsibility," it adds, "to be highly objective because if they create excuses for war, they would be committing a crime against the region and against humanity."

London-based Al-Sharq al-Awsat describes the discovery as "probably the first serious setback for the efforts to prevent a war" in Iraq.

A commentary on Iranian radio believes that "the only way to bridle America and stop possible misuse of the findings of the UN weapons inspectors" is for Iraq to "show good will and honesty in the disarmament process".

Saddam defiant

Meanwhile, President Saddam Hussein on Friday marked the 12th anniversary of the Gulf War, "the Eternal Mother of All Battles", with a speech in which he conveyed a sense that war with the United States is imminent.

The speech, broadcast live simultaneously on Iraqi TV and radio stations, stood out from previous ones on the same occasion by its strong threats and warnings to the US and the call on Iraqis to wage "jihad".

He also cast Americans as a "new Hulegu" - a reference to the Mongol leader who seized and sacked Baghdad in 1258.

"The people and rulers of Baghdad have resolved to compel the Mongols of this age to commit suicide on its walls."

One of the 11 empty chemical warheads found
The discovered warheads are a cause for concern
"Raise high your swords and rifles," Saddam urged Iraqis. "Let your rifles be guided by ... the light of your faith," he added.

An editorial in Babil, which is run by the Iraqi leader's eldest son Uday, sounded a similar note.

"It is time for this age's Hulego and its midgets," it says, "to realise that the Iraqi people and their leaders are one and that there can be no free Iraq without Saddam Hussein".

Al-Sharq al-Awsat disagrees: "Saddam's behaviour and message are perplexing and embarrassing."

It believes the speech bolsters the impression that "the countdown for the outbreak of war has already started."

"The delusion that slogans and emotional shouts," it adds, "could change the course of history is a wrong policy and lacks any strategy, either for peace or war."

Peace efforts

Al-Ahram takes a different view, urging the US "to rethink its dealing with the Iraqi issue and rule out the option of war and destruction".

The arrogant US is resigned to first dominate the region and then plunder the Arabian Gulf's oil resources

Tishrin
It believes the war option "will only lead to more instability in the region and more hatred of the US in the region and the world".

Elsewhere in the paper, an editorial says that "everyone hopes the efforts being made by several Arab and Islamic countries, spearheaded by Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Turkey, lead to a peaceful solution to the problem and that Iraq, the US and Britain respond to them."

Syria's Tishrin believes a US military campaign against Iraq is "illegitimate" and that it "will have nothing to do with alleged banned weapons".

Instead, it accuses the "arrogant US" of being "resigned to first dominate the region and then plunder the Arabian Gulf's oil resources".

It warns that "Iraq is the first phase of a US plot targeting the entire Arab region".

The daily urges the Arabs "to do whatever is necessary to ward off war because any harm inflicted on Iraq is bound to affect the rest of the Arab countries in the end".

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

See also:

17 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
17 Jan 03 | Middle East
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