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Arabs fill capitals' streets, vilify U.S.

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 22, 2003

Riots erupted Thursday across the Mideast as crowds protested the war against Iraq; most protesters seemed more anti-American than pro-Saddam Hussein.

Meanwhile, France, Germany and Belgium announced plans to form a defense counterweight to the American-British alliance.

MIDEAST: Arabs unleash wrath

Furious Arabs stormed the streets in nearly every Arab capital Friday, screaming, "Death to America!" and demanding vengeance for the invasion of Iraq. Three people died outside the U.S. Embassy in Sana, Yemen.

YEMEN: About 30,000 people assembled after prayers in the ancient Yemeni city of Sana and marched several miles to the U.S. Embassy.

Riot troops in armored cars held them off with water cannons, tear gas and, finally, live ammunition fired into the air.

Witnesses said a teenage boy was shot dead by a police bullet, and a security official who asked not to be named said a policeman was killed by a protester.

The official Yemeni news agency Saba reported late Friday that two demonstrators had been killed, but gave no details.

The security official said seven other police officers were wounded, and at least 30 demonstrators were overcome by gas.

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh expressed regret for the casualties and ordered an investigation. In a statement, he said people had the right to express their opinions, but "what happened damages and harms security and the nation."

Saleh stressed he also opposed the war.

WEST BANK, GAZA STRIP: In a display meant to show that Hussein's government was still functioning after U.S. strikes, a Palestinian group funded by the Iraqi leader distributed $10,000 on Friday to three families with sons killed in the uprising against Israel.

The payments came as thousands crowded the streets in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, holding pictures of Hussein and calling on his army to strike Tel Aviv, Israel's most important commercial center.

Taxi drivers zipped through the Gaza Strip waving Iraqi flags and shouting pro-Iraq slogans. Hundreds gathered to see Hussein's payments delivered.

LEBANON: In Beirut, Grand Ayatollah Sheik Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah used his Friday sermon to denounce both the United States and Hussein.

"We call on the Iraqi people to topple the tyrant who has destroyed Iraq and thrown the Arab and Islamic world into disarray," said Fadlallah, a Shiite.

But, he added, he rejected "Iraq's occupation by the arrogant powers, particularly America."

JORDAN: In Amman, 4,000 Palestinians jammed into a mosque courtyard to hear Hamza Mansour, a cleric leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, urge them to fight back with car bombs and martyr themselves to Allah.

Riot troops pumped tear gas into three crowds of stone-throwing youths in Amman, including one turned away from the Israeli Embassy.

"The Americans are targeting not only Iraq but also our nation, our dignity, our holy land," Mansour told the chanting, cheering crowd.

In a television address, King Abdullah II said, "I know the pain and anger you are feeling because of the suffering and ordeal that the Iraqi people are suffering." But he urged his subjects to act in "a civilized manner."

Meanwhile, Amman police entered a downtown mosque and took away two imams who delivered fiery sermons, worshipers said.

EGYPT: About 10,000 angry protesters surged through Cairo, the Egyptian capital, after Friday prayers. Police beat them back with riot sticks and water cannons, leaving several streaming with blood.

In his sermon, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi, the grand sheik of Al-Azhar Mosque, called for jihad -- holy war -- to support Iraqis.

"Jihad in Islam is meant to defend ... those subject to injustice," he said. "We have to support and defend the people of Iraq."

EUROPE: Criticism continues

BELGIUM: France, Germany and Belgium said they would discuss closer links among their armed forces to serve as a counterweight to Britain and the United States.

Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt announced that French, German and Belgian officials would meet next month to discuss ways to forge closer links between their nations' armed forces.

The proposal, which would create a union-within-a-union if successful, involves the three EU members that have been most vocal in their opposition to a military assault on Iraq.

Although German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder insisted no country would be excluded from a common defense policy, Belgian officials said that only three nations were invited to the summit in Paris, pointedly excluding Britain, America's closest ally in Iraq and Europe's leading military power.

BRITAIN: Foreign Secretary Jack Straw maintained his accusation that France had torpedoed efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Iraq crisis.

Earlier in the week, Dominique De Villepin, Straw's French counterpart, called Straw to request that he not repeat those assertions, saying they were not appropriate comments from an ally.

But when Straw was asked Friday whether he regretted his barbed language, he said: "I stand by the words I have used. I don't regret the fact that we have argued, that we disagree with the French position, because we do."

RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin warned Friday that the U.S.-led war on Iraq could destabilize the former Soviet republics.

"The crisis has spilled beyond a local conflict and today has become a potential source of instability in other regions, including the Commonwealth of Independent States," Putin said. "The war against Iraq is a decision that might trigger unpredictable consequences, including increased extremism."

The lower house of Parliament, or State Duma, passed a resolution asking Putin to urge the Security Council to send U.N. forces to Iraq and convene a special session of the U.N. General Assembly.

NORTH KOREA: 'Brink of nuclear war'

North Korea condemned the U.S.-led war on Iraq on Friday and said American war games in South Korea were pushing the divided peninsula "to the brink of a nuclear war."

North Korea's first official response to the Iraq war came after South Korea put its military on heightened alert, worried North Korea might use the distraction of Iraq to raise tensions on the peninsula.

"The violation of Iraq's sovereignty already started with demanding disarmament by inspection and gradually led to war," a spokesman at North Korea's Foreign Ministry told KCNA, the communist state's foreign news outlet.

KCNA said the United States was conducting military exercises in South Korea to test its capabilities of fighting two wars simultaneously -- displaying what the North called a "strategy to dominate the world."

ASIA: Smaller protests, if any

INDONESIA: In the world's most populous Muslim nation, demonstrators threw eggs and vegetables at the British Embassy, besieged U.S. fast-food restaurants and banks and blocked traffic.

But rallies against the war drew fewer people than expected. Islamic religious leaders in Indonesia said 100,000 followers would march in Jakarta, but no than a few thousand, at most, did so.

PAKISTAN: Angry demonstrations, ranging in size from hundreds to thousands, were held in several Pakistani cities Friday to protest the attacks on Iraq. But a call by hardline Islamic groups for a nationwide strike fizzled and stores generally remained open as normal. The Islamic parties have called for a major demonstration on Sunday in the city of Lahore.

MALAYSIA: Prime Minister Mohamed Mahathir has been unstinting in his criticism of the U.S. policy, but he exercises complete control, and there have been no large demonstrations.

Mahathir's designated successor, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, gave a speech to the business community this week that delighted American officials. Malaysia needs foreign investment, he said, and that could be attracted only in a climate of calm and stability.

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