Iraq Under Fire: Anger grows against West: The mood in Baghdad

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The Independent Online
BAGHDAD - Anti-Western feeling mounted yesterday as angry Iraqis buried the victims of the US cruise missile attack and the death toll from two days of raids rose to more than 20. Anti-aircraft batteries went into action in Baghdad again last night, with tracer bullets streaking through the sky. Air raid sirens sounded, but it later appeared to have been a false alarm.

Foreign residents said they had seen a change of attitude towards Westerners, with an old admiration transformed into hatred. Many people in Iraq see the West as intent on humiliating them for no good reason and prolonging the sufferings of the 30-month United Nations embargo.

In one hotel cafeteria, a waitress refused to serve a table of Westerners, saying to a colleague: 'I don't want to have anything more to do with them.'

Such public sentiment was matched by official anger, with Iraq denouncing the UN commission implementing the terms of the Gulf war ceasefire as a US tool. Tariq Aziz, the Deputy Prime Minister, said Washington had no Security Council backing for its air and missile raids. 'The Security Council, which is the authorised party, did not hold any session on this issue prior to the American aggression,' he said.

To shouts of 'Allahu Akbar' (God is most great), a funeral procession set off from the Rashid hotel yesterday. One of the dead was a 24-year-old female receptionist and the other an unidentified female guest who had been attending an Islamic conference in support of Iraq.

Friends and relatives of the receptionist and a crowd of dazed Baghdadis gathered outside the Rashid to pay a last tribute to the woman, whose death came on the second anniversary to the day of the Gulf war. The funeral procession left the hotel and wound its way through the streets of the capital to the Christian Chaldean Cemetery, where the receptionist was to be buried. An honour guard led the mourners, preceded by trucks carrying the dead.

'If we see the Americans we'll kill them,' shouted the relative of one of the victims. 'Allahu Akbar. Martyrs are the beloved of God,' the crowd replied.

Peter Brinkmann, a German reporter who was injured when the Rashid was hit by a US cruise missile, yesterday described meeting President Saddam Hussein in a Baghdad hospital. 'I was almost blind, as my glasses had been lost somewhere in the rubble,' he told Bild, the German newspaper. He quoted President Saddam as telling him: 'Look, this is what they always do. Now you see it. Tell the world they are always bombing civilian targets.'

During the 1991 Gulf war, some wealthy Iraqis moved into the Rashid counting on the presence of foreign journalists to keep the hotel off the West's list of targets. The US military claimed Iraq's armed forces were taking advantage of the same protection with a command bunker hidden deep in the hotel basement.

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