Wave of anger across Gulf

Arab reaction
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ALL ACROSS the Arab world yesterday, British diplomats were sending back to London reports which totally contradicted what Robin Cook, the Foreign Secretary, has been telling the British people. In their summaries and press digests, ambassadors have been telling the Foreign Office of the rage, fury, frustration and humiliation of the Arabs in the face of the attack on Iraq.

Mr Cook maintains that while reaction is "muted", most Arab regimes support the bombardment. But in Cairo, the ambassador will have told his masters of demonstrations at the al-Azhar mosque where the imam told his people to support Iraq or "be struck by God's damnation" and where hundreds demanded a holy war.

The British embassy in Abu Dhabi will have recorded the words of the official spokesman of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al-Nahyan, the ruler of the United Arab Emirates, who referred to the "terrible operation" as "beyond comprehension and ... unacceptable".

Our diplomats in Damascus will have sent back accounts of remarks by Abdul-Kader Qaddoura, speaker of the Syrian parliament, who said: "We condemn and denounce this attack and call on the international community to halt it."

In Qatar, one of the only Arab Gulf states to open relations with Israel, the daily newspaper Asharq said that American missiles were "targeting unarmed Iraqi civilians, showing that human conscience is dead. The missiles, loaded with hatred, are ruthlessly bringing death and devastation to a dear Arab nation".

In Beirut - diplomats will have read the editorial in the daily as- Safir, whose columnist Mohamed Mashmoushi suggested that British and American talk about "respect for the sensitivities of Muslims" at Ramadan was a pretext to trample upon Muslim land.

Most newspaper editorials in the Arab world assumed that the Anglo-American attack meant the end of all future UN weapons inspections. Ghassan Tueni, the joint owner of an-Nahar newspaper in Beirut, lamented the weakness of the Arab world in confronting the bombardment of Iraq.

"If we want to dream," he wrote, "there's nothing to prevent Syria and Jordan declaring their desire to enter a pact or alliance with Iraq."

Jordan and Egypt - Washington's principle Arab "friends" in the Middle East - sent state security police onto the streets of Amman and Cairo to prevent demonstrations. Only in Kuwait could one hear the sort of anger Mr Cook would have us believe represents the Arab world.

Fouad al-Hashem, a columnist for the Kuwaiti daily al-Watan, wrote that he wished to see the bodies of Saddam Hussein, his wife and sons "hanging naked from street lamps all over Baghdad". One wonders how the British embassy in Kuwait rendered that sentiment into English.