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Arabs Critical of U.S. Attack on Iraq, Some See Election ‘Ploy’

September 4, 1996

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Middle East leaders and media today denounced the U.S. missile attack on southern Iraq, calling it typical American bullying, Clinton campaign grandstanding, or simple disrespect for Iraqi sovereignty.

Syria and Egypt, the United States’ main Arab partners in the coalition that drove Iraq out of Kuwait in 1991, criticized the strikes _ as did Libya and Iran.

Even Kuwait and Saudi Arabia made muted responses. The Saudi government and another traditional U.S. ally, Jordan, both signaled they would not allow their territories to be used to launch attacks on Iraq.

The first U.S. strike with 27 cruise missiles killed five people Tuesday and today’s 17-missile ``mop-up,″ Iraqi armed forces said, killed one.

Clinton ordered the strikes in response to Saddam Hussein’s weekend assault on Kurdish rebels in Irbil, the main city in the U.S.-protected Kurdish safe haven in northern Iraq.

After the second assault, Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani told Cable News Network that ``this issue has turned into an election tool (for Clinton) to gain more votes.″

In Libya, Jumaa al-Fazzani, minister for Arab unity, told the state-run JANA news agency that the United States had no right to intervene in Iraq’s internal affairs.

The U.S. missile attacks, he said, constitute ``an election card and a chance to conduct more tests of the American arsenal.″

Syria’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday condemned the U.S. attacks, saying they violate international laws and ``will increase the suffering of the Iraqi people.″

In Egypt, about 2,000 students marched Tuesday night in the southern city of Assiut, shouting anti-American slogans to protest the U.S. action. Police did not disrupt the protest.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa called the U.S. strikes disturbing. Egyptian newspapers _ both state-run and opposition _ objected to the U.S. action.

The pro-government Al-Ahram daily asked why the United States did not intervene when Turkish and Iranian troops crossed into northern Iraq to confront Kurdish guerrillas.

``Preventing Iraqi troops from being in northern Iraq requires that the United States and its allies ... prevent any foreign incursions,″ Al-Ahram said.

Lutfi Wakid, a columnist with the opposition Al-Ahli newspaper, termed the United States ``the biggest bully in modern political life″ and said the air strikes were ``nothing but a terrorist act.″

Qatar’s Al-Rayah newspaper accused the United States of ``muscle flexing″ and said Washington ``found in the Arabs an easy prey as it fires missiles against them, uses them as a field test for its old and modern weapons.″

In Jordan, the liberal Ad-Dustour daily condemned the U.S. action as a ``barbaric aggression aimed at undermining the unity of Iraqi people and territory and violating the country’s sovereignty and independence.″

It called for an Arab summit ``to resolve the Iraqi crisis within the Arab fold.″

Esmat Abdel-Meguid, secretary-general of the 22-member Arab League, of which Iraq is a member, characterized the U.S. action as ``an aggression against the sovereignty of an Arab state″ that would lead to further instability in the region.

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