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Anti-War Protests Sweep Middle East - 2003-03-21


For a second day, anti-war protests have swept the Middle East. Thousands of demonstrators spilled into the streets in several Arab capitals following the Muslim midday prayers. Some of the demonstrations turned violent.

Several thousand Jordanians and Palestinian refugees vented their anger during a schoolyard rally organized by the Islamic Action Front in this mostly Palestinian neighborhood in Amman. They shouted anti-American slogans and burned U.S., British and Israeli flags.

One teenager who joined in the chanting said many of his friends still consider Saddam Hussein an Arab hero. "They love him because he is the only person who can attack Israel," he said. "He's the only person who can send bombs to Israel."

Later the demonstrators, including women and children, clashed with police when they tried to march toward the Israeli embassy. The diplomatic mission was established after Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Protesters also clashed with police in the southern town of Ma'an, which is considered an Islamic stronghold.

Elsewhere in the region, police in Cairo used water cannon to disperse more than 5,000 demonstrators outside the al-Azhar mosque in the city center. Lebanese police also used tear gas and water cannon against demonstrators in Beirut.

Two protesters were shot dead and dozens more injured in clashes with police in the Yemeni capital Sana'a. Riot police in Bahrain used rubber bullets and tear gas to keep protesters away from the U.S. embassy there.

Thousands of Palestinians demonstrated in refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon, with many protesters waving posters of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat.

Most of the protesters across the region vented their anger at the U.S.-led war in Iraq, and they also criticized Arab leaders for not doing more to prevent it.

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