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Arab World Reacts to Saddam Capture with Caution


The Arab world is reacting with caution to Sunday's announcement that former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein has been captured. Some experts believe the capture could greatly diminish organized resistance to U.S. forces in Iraq, while others are predicting there could be a period of increased militant attacks in Iraq and possibly elsewhere in the Arab world.

The head of the al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Abdel Moneim Said, said the capture of Saddam Hussein may cause acts of terror to increase throughout the Arab world and in Iraq.

He said militants in Iraq may want to show that Saddam Hussein had little or nothing to do with their efforts to oust occupying coalition forces.

Mr. Said said there's no doubt there will be intense public interest throughout the Arab world regarding the details of Saddam's capture, but he says that attention will soon go back to the political issues facing Iraq. "I think people will be curious to know the details of how that happened and what's Saddam's behavior in custody and so forth. But, I believe after a couple of weeks from now, or 10 days, we will come to the original story which, for the Arab world, is the occupation of Iraq and the possibility of it's transition to a democratic government," he said.

Mr. Said predicted mixed reaction on the streets of the Arab world, saying some would welcome the news of Saddam's capture, while others would be upset that a symbol of Arab defiance against the United States had finally been apprehended.

Military expert and former Egyptian army general Mohammed Sowalliam said he agrees there will likely be a rise in militant attacks in Iraq and possibly elsewhere in the Arab world; but he thinks the capture of the former Iraqi leader will have a dramatic affect on the resistance being waged by Saddam loyalists.

"I am very confident that the resistance will be diminished, because a lot of influence of Saddam Hussein will be finished, and the financing of these operations also will be diminished. But, [the Iraqis] are very happy because there will no hope for restoring the Baath regime. Or, those who are afraid from Saddam Hussein returning, of Saddam Hussein coming back with the Baath and his regime again, this fear will be finished," he said.

Not everyone is impressed with news of Saddam being taken into custody. Political science professor at Qatar University, Mohamed al-Musfr, said Saddam's influence in Iraq and the region was finished when his regime was defeated. "I think there's no more followers for Saddam Hussein, neither in Iraq nor other parties. These supporters of Saddam Hussein, they are not really true because Saddam Hussein is not very popular, neither in Iraq or the Arab countries. If he is captured it doesn't make any impact on the region at all because this regime is totally finished with," he said.

Kuwaiti officials described Sunday's news as a major turning point and the end of tyranny in Iraq.

A senior Egyptian government official said President Hosni Mubarak was preparing a congratulatory message to President Bush. Other Arab leaders, including those in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, are expected to do the same.

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