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Iraq: Don’t Ignore Our Arab Support

February 14, 1998

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) _ Iraq today warned the United States not to underestimate the impact of popular support it enjoys across the Arab world.

Over the past week, pro-Iraq demonstrations have been organized in Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinian territories. Both Jordan and the Palestinian Authority have banned such protests, fearful of the message they may send to the United States and its allies.

At a rally Friday in Jordan, riot police used clubs and attack dogs to break up protesters at an Amman mosque and arrested dozens.

Al-Jumhuriya, a Iraqi government newspaper, said the protests were a harbinger of a popular uprising that could mean trouble for Arab leaders who did nothing about Washington’s threat to attack if Iraq does not give complete access to U.N. weapons inspectors.

``If America attacks, the doomsday will take place,″ said the newspaper.

The editorial urged Arabs to spill into the streets to create pressure on their governments to force Washington to back down.

In a sign of the importance Iraq places on Arab opinion, the government has sent delegates to the Middle East, North Africa and the Gulf in hopes of rallying support.

The U.N. experts must make sure that Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction, a requirement of U.N. resolutions adopted after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and the Gulf War that followed.

The United States has ruled out any compromise on the inspections.

Still aiming for a peaceful solution, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is sending a team to map eight presidential sites made off-limits to the arms inspectors.

Momentum was building for Annan himself to travel to Iraq.

Iraq has said it will welcome either Annan or a U.N. envoy for further discussions.

In Jordan, U.S. Ambassador Wesley Egan said any military attack would be substantial, the English-language Jordan Times reported today. But he added that the United States believes that ``the territorial integrity of Iraq is fundamental to the stability of the region.″

Force ``is not inevitable″ and the United States is allowing time for diplomacy to work, Egan was quoted as saying.