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Arabs Voice Opposition to US Attack on Iraq - 2002-08-25

Voices of opposition to a possible U.S.-led military operation in Iraq are growing throughout the Arab world as Iraq prepares an international campaign in an effort to generate support against an American attack.

Yemeni President Abdullah Saleh is warning that a U.S.-led invasion of Iraq would set a dangerous precedent for possible military strikes in other states in the region.

Mr. Saleh was quoted as saying "what will happen in Iraq will happen as well in Iran, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and in several other countries." He said "nobody will be safe from such U.S. threats."

Yemen has cooperated with American forces to locate members of the al-Qaida terror network. Yemeni troops were deployed around suspected al-Qaida strongholds in the country's northeast, and the U.S. military has been sent to assist in the training of the Yemeni army.

While Yemen was voicing its opposition to a U.S.-led invasion, Iraq's Vice President Taha Yassin Ramadan said Baghdad plans to send envoys abroad with a message that such an invasion "is doomed to fail."

Mr. Ramadan said Iraqi envoys will soon be visiting Arab, Asian and African capitals in an effort to generate support against a U.S. military offensive on Baghdad. He said the diplomatic effort is meant to persuade Arab leaders, in particular, that "an American led strike would represent dangers to their countries, too."

Mr. Ramadan, quoted in a weekly Iraqi magazine, said "Iraq will defeat evil and come out victorious in its struggle against terrorism and the evil power," referring to the United States.

One specialist says that while there is no physical evidence in Baghdad that Iraq is preparing for war, three weeks ago President Saddam Hussein issued a decree giving Iraqi citizens the right to own weapons.

"The Iraqi nation, as a whole, is in training on arms to such an extent that whatever has never been allowed, namely the sale of arms to individuals, is now permitted by law," said Sa'id Nassar, a writer for a number of Arab publications and an expert in Arab affairs who makes regular trips to Iraq. He says the law is intended to allow individuals the right to own arms in an effort to defend themselves.

Mr. Nassar says there is widespread belief on Iraqi streets that a U.S.-led military strike would most likely occur in the winter, when temperatures in Iraq would be more favorable for American troops.

The White House accuses Baghdad of developing weapons of mass destruction. But President Bush has said, repeatedly, he has made no decision regarding the possible use of military force against Iraq.