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by Saima Alvi
09 April 2003 18:22 UTC
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Postwar Iraq threatens fresh diplomatic wrangle
By Andrew Cawthorne
LONDON (Reuters) - Anglo-American pledges that the United Nations will play a "vital role" in postwar Iraq may not be enough to ward off a fresh diplomatic showdown with the big powers of Europe.
Apparently unappeased by President George W. Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair's war and peace summit in Northern Ireland, Europe's anti-war leaders France, Germany and Russia are holding a rival summit in St Petersburg at the weekend.
If, as expected, they press for a bigger U.N. role in Iraq than either Washington or London envisage, that could set the scene for a postwar fight at the U.N. Security Council to rival the traumatic preconflict dispute over authorising force.
"The jostling has begun," Jeffrey Gedmin, director of the Aspen Institute in Berlin, said of the rival meetings.
"We have developed a cycle that is now hard to break...We have a different alignment of forces and a lack of trust. Will it develop into a full-blown round two or will it be a hiccup after the first fight? It's too early to say."
The United States and Britain desperately want to avoid opening a new diplomatic battlefront.
Blair, who failed spectacularly to bridge the prewar transatlantic differences, has pleaded daily for unity.
"This shouldn't be about diplomatic wrangling, it should be about what's best for Iraqis for the future," he urged on Wednesday as U.S.-led troops thrusting through Baghdad injected urgency into the global debate on Iraq's future.
Bush talked a similar game at Tuesday's summit on Blair's back yard of Northern Ireland, but sceptics believe the U.S. leader cares far less than Blair about U.N. credibility.
It is that widespread fear the United States will in fact do whatever it wants in Iraq -- with the thinnest of U.N. fig-leaves for endorsement -- that underpins the postwar debate.
Washington and London envisage three stages after war: military occupation in the immediate aftermath, an interim government mixing U.S and British officials with Iraqi locals and exiles, then a new, elected Iraqi government.
The United Nations does not want control but the Franco-German-Russian axis would like to see it play a bigger role.
"We are no longer in an era where one or two countries can control the fate of another country," according to French President Jacques Chirac, loudest of the war critics.
Many also fear the second stage of an interim government will in fact be dominated by U.S. officials and U.S.-groomed Iraqi exiles, giving Washington undue influence.
And there were notable omissions in the Bush-Blair vision at Belfast. Pressed to elaborate on what the "vital" U.N. role will be, Bush volunteered aid and "suggestions" for interim rule.
A reduced role may, ironically, suit the U.N. bureaucracy, analysts say.
The United Nations does not want a lead role in light of the "horrific lawlessness" and enormity of reconstruction, said Iraq expert Toby Dodge, of Britain's Warwick University. "If anything, they are petrified they will have such a role foisted on them."
The greatest lever open to anti-war Security Council members is the cash held for Iraqi reconstruction under the U.N. oil-for-food programme.
The anti-war bloc could play for the best deal and biggest U.N. role possible, or turn confrontational and block any U.N. legitimising of the Anglo-American plans, analysts said.
"France, Germany and Russia want to show at the St Petersburg meeting that their alliance was not a one-off thing, that their opinion is to be reckoned with," said Yevgeny Volk, an analyst at Russia's Heritage Foundation.
-- Additional reporting by Reuters bureaux around Europe
Arabs watch Saddam's demise in disbelief
By Lucy Fielder
CAIRO (Reuters) - Arabs watched in disbelief on Wednesday as Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, described by one Moroccan as the Arab world's "best dictator", lost Baghdad to U.S.-led forces without a fight.
"It's like a movie. I can't believe what I'm seeing," said Adel, a lawyer in Beirut. "Why didn't he just give up to start with if this was all the resistance he could muster? Instead of wasting all those lives for nothing."
In Cairo, people gathered around television sets in shops and coffee houses watching U.S. troops toppling a huge statue of Saddam in the heart of Baghdad and Iraqis dancing on it.
"It seemed that Iraqis were all with Saddam, now it looks like many didn't like him. Maybe those destroying the statue are rebels against Saddam's rule," engineer Magdy Tawfiq said as he watched Saddam's statue being toppled by a U.S. tank.
But security guard Waleed Tawfiq said he still did not believe Saddam was out. "I will be upset if it turns out Saddam has lost power. He tried to defend his land. If he is dead he will be a martyr."
Most Arabs have no love for Saddam. But his defiance towards the United States has been met with approval in a region angry at Washington's support for Israel and perceived interference in Arab affairs, and the presence of U.S. forces in Arab countries.
Three weeks of war in Iraq have sparked anger across the Arab world, and the anger grew as civilian casualties mounted. Protesters at hundreds of rallies have chanted praise for "beloved" Saddam and held his picture aloft.
Rabat perfume shop owner Lahoucine Lanait described Saddam as the Arab world's "best dictator".
But few Arabs had a kind word for him as his 24-year rule collapsed on Wednesday.
"Saddam is not an Arab champion. The war is practically over, did he win? No, and Iraq is destroyed," said Ayman Abdel Rahim, a Cairo butcher.
"Saddam Hussein is proving for the thousandth time that he is stubborn, stupid, idiotic and a terrorist. He is more like the head of a gang and not the president of a respectable state like Iraq," said Sultan Nasser, 49-year-old Saudi bank employee.
STANDING UP TO THE UNITED STATES
Many Arabs liken the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq to Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
In Oman, some said Saddam, whose fate is unknown after he was targeted by U.S. planes, symbolised resistance.
"It is irrelevant whether Saddam is dead or not. His memory will live on to inspire many Arabs to stand up against all the injustices committed by the U.S. and its friends in Israel," Belqees Hamood, a university student, said.
"Saddam was not an angel to his own people but he will be missed since many Arabs see him as a leader who was not afraid to challenge the American and Israeli aggressions over Palestinians," said Juma Backer, a businessman.
In Saudi Arabia, Mohsen al-Awajy, a reformist sheikh who has been jailed by the country's pro-Western monarchy, said: "No one wanted to fight under Saddam's banner."
"But resistance to occupation has nothing to do with Saddam and just part of the battle is about to end now."
Adel in Beirut disagreed. "So he was the only Arab leader to stand up to the Americans. Look what happened, no one else will dare try that again."
Some said his death at the hands of U.S.-led invaders would make him a martyr. It was a question of honour.
"My hope is that Saddam falls fighting with his own gun. If he flees or surrenders, as many people believe, then he is like other Arab leaders who do not care about honour, it would be a total shame," said Sellami Hidoussi, a Tunis car garage guard.
Fahd Saleh of Saudi Arabia expressed equal dislike for U.S. President George W. Bush and Saddam.
"Saddam is a terrorist but he's not alone. Bush too is a terrorist but Saddam is weak and Bush is strong. That's why he has won, because no one opposes a strong person," said the 33-year-old Saudi government employee.
"How wonderful the world would be without Saddam and without Bush!"
(Contributions from Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia)
Scientists urge people to stop using English terms
German scientists are telling the public to stop using
words derived from English and use French terms
Armin Burkhardt, who heads the working group on
language in politics, calls the project a way of
"peaceful linguistic protest".
He is a professor at the German department at
In an appeal published by the committee, Burkhardt
suggests Germans should buy billets not tickets, go on
a rendezvous instead of a date and agree by saying
d'accord rather than okay.
He is also calling for "formidable" to replace "cool"
and "bonvivant" to replace "playboy".
French expressions have long been part of German,
whereas most English expressions only entered the
language after World War II.
The group lists about 30 French replacements for
Yet, Burkhardt insists the project isn't directed
against English-speaking countries.
"But it is meant to show that the political line of
the French president and the German chancellor on Iraq
have the support of the majority of the public."
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