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News of Saddam's Sons Deaths Makes Headlines in Asia - 2003-07-23

The U.S. military's announcement that Saddam Hussein's two sons were killed drew applause from some Asian leaders and from Iraqi exiles in the region. The most outspoken response came from Australia, which was a strong supporter of the U.S.-led war on Iraq.

Across Asia, people awoke to television and radio reports saying U.S. troops in Iraq killed Saddam Hussein's two sons, Uday and Qusay. The U.S. military said they died in a fierce gun battle, after U.S. soldiers stormed their hideout in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul following a tip-off from an Iraqi source.

Saddam's sons were the second and third most-wanted Iraqis on the U.S. government list. Thirty-six-year old Qusay was Saddam Hussein's heir apparent and ran part of Iraq's security apparatus. Uday, his 39-year-old brother, had authority over state propaganda and had a reputation for brutality.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard hailed the news, saying "Many Iraqi people have still lived in fear of the restoration of the old regime, and the apparent deaths of Saddam's two sons is a huge step toward removing that fear. … Psychologically, it's a huge step forward …"

That view was echoed in New Zealand, where Foreign Minister Phil Goff said the reported deaths lend stability to Iraq, and make reconstruction easier.

Japan's reaction was also positive, but more guarded. Government spokesman Yasuo Fukuda said that, if the deaths help eliminate security threats, they are a good thing. He adds, if security does not improve, Japan will not be able to give effective support for reconstruction.

Mr. Fukuda was referring to daily attacks against U.S. troops stationed in Iraq. These sometimes deadly attacks have dampened Japanese public support for sending troops to Iraq. The Japanese government this week will try to enact legislation to send troops to back-up their U.S. counterparts, and assist with rebuilding.

Meanwhile, Iraqi exiles in the region are rejoicing at the news. Dr. Mohammed al Jabiri, a former diplomat and senior member of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party now living in exile in Australia, talked to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"For the Iraqi people, Saddam's sons, they are the most criminal. They acted against the will of the Iraqi people. This is what they really deserve to get after all the years of crimes committed against humanity," he said.

In China, the news was a top story in print, radio and television. The spokesperson for China's Foreign Ministry said, now, the top priority is restoring calm, so that the Iraqi people can lead stable lives.

China was opposed to the U.S.-led war on Iraq, saying it violated international conventions.