Sunday, December 14
Arabs Share Little of World Joy Over Saddam's Capture
Agence France Presse, December 14, 2003

CAIRO - Arabs shared little of the world's joy over Saddam Hussein's capture, with many bitter over another victory for an "arrogant" pro-Israeli United States.

Though officials in Kuwait hailed the arrest of the dictator who ordered the invasion of their emirate in 1990, those in other Arab states were subdued, expressing hope only that US troops may soon end their occupation of Iraq.

An elderly Jordanian man kisses a picture of ousted Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in downtown Amman December 14, 2003. Arabs greeted the capture of Saddam Hussein with divided emotions, welcoming the arrest of a dictator yet tinged with regret that a symbol of Arab defiance against the United States was behind bars. (Ali Jarekji/Reuters)

Palestinian officials refused to comment after having paid a heavy political price for supporting Saddam during the 1991 US-led Gulf war to free Kuwait.

Many people in the streets of Cairo and Beirut openly cursed a victory for a United States they see as an arrogant and unjust power, while some even refused to believe their eyes and ears.

Eyes riveted to the television screen in a Cairo coffee shop, customers worried about this "American victory" and feared it would ensure the re-election of President George W. Bush next year.

"It's not Saddam that they should arrest," blurted Aziz al-Shaburi, a 34-year-old government employee, when he saw television images showing an American medic inspecting a bearded Saddam's mouth.

"They would have been better to capture (Israeli Prime Minister Ariel) Sharon, the real war criminal," he said, eliciting applause from other patrons in the Awlad al-Hareth cafe.

Merchant Hassan Abdel Hamid, 34, refused to believe the news, dismissing it as "American propaganda and lies, just like the deaths of Qusay and Uday," Saddam's sons who were killed in a shootout earlier this year.

"Everybody knows who the real murderers are, they are the murderers of the Palestinians," Abdel Hamid said.

"Why did no Arab king offer 25 million dollars for Sharon's arrest?" he asked, referring to Washington's reward for the capture of Saddam.

Abdel Hamid shook his head scornfully while watching Iraqis celebrate Saddam's arrest. "Yesterday they shouted 'with our soul and our blood, we will defend you, oh Saddam'," he said.

Mustafa Bakri, the pro-Saddam editor in chief of the independent Egyptian weekly Al-Osbou, said on the television: "It's a black day in the history of the Arabs. It's a humiliation.

"It's Bush, Blair, Berlusconi, Aznar and Sharon who should be put on trial," said Bakri, who organized several solidarity trips from Cairo to Baghdad before US troops invaded in March.

Mahmud el-Azzazi, 29, another patron, said: "It's the end of the Arabs. There will be a domino effect. His fall will lead to that of other Arab leaders who displease the Americans."

In Beirut, Doha Shams, a journalist with the leftist newspaper As-Safir, said: "It's great to be finished with Saddam but when will Bush's turn come? He is threatening world peace."

An elegantly dressed 70-year-old Lebanese woman named Lilie said she was sad "because it's a victory for the Americans whom I detest. It will increase their arrogance."

Her remarks were in sharp contrast to those of Kuwaiti Information Minister Mohammed Abulhassan.

"Thank God that he has been captured alive, so he can be tried for the heinous crimes he has committed" against the Iraqi and Kuwaiti peoples, said Abulhassan, who was Kuwait's UN representative at the time of the invasion.
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