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Most Arabs Remember Reagan with Respect - 2004-06-06

The Arab world is remembering former President Ronald Reagan, some with respect and admiration and others with contempt.

According to political analysts and former diplomats in the Arab world, Ronald Reagan will be remembered positively throughout much of the region for, among other things, his efforts to find a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

According to former Egyptian diplomat Abdullah al-Ashaal, Mr. Reagan was the first to discuss a possible land-for-peace agreement involving the Palestinians and Israelis.

"The Arab world was supported by President Reagan in his plan for the Middle East when he coined, for the first time, the land-for-peace formula," he said. "So, President Reagan was, in fact, very favorable to the Arab world, and they remember him with all respect."

A statement released from the offices of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says President Reagan was a friend, and that during his presidency relations between the two countries were based on understanding and cooperation.

But Libyan leader Moammar Ghadafi Sunday said President Reagan should have been prosecuted for what he called "crimes against Libyan children." He was referring to U.S. attacks against a Ghadafi residence in 1986 that resulted in the death of an adopted daughter. The airstrikes were in response to a nightclub bombing in Berlin that Washington blamed on Tripoli.

In 1982 President Reagan sent U.S. Marines to Beirut to help oust armed factions of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

Sami Baroudi, the head of the political science department at Lebanese-American University in Beirut said "there was considerable support in Lebanon to get the PLO out, because that was the only way to end the Israeli assault on Beirut." "Of course, it did not work out like that, but, nevertheless, there was support for the mission."

In 1983, President Reagan withdrew the Marines from Lebanon, following a suicide attack that killed 241 American soldiers at a military barracks in Beirut. It was believed the Iranian-backed group Hezbollah was behind the bombing.

During much of the 1980s, the United States was a weapons supplier to Iraq in its eight-year war with Iran. Sunday, an Iranian government spokesman, Hamid Reza, refused comment on the passing of the former president.

In the mid-1980s it was learned that President Reagan had agreed to secretly sell arms to Iran in return for Tehran helping to free American hostages being held in Lebanon by a pro-Iran terrorist group. The proceeds from the arms sales went to fund Contra rebels fighting in Nicaragua in what became known as the Iran-Contra scandal.