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Arab League Comments on Iraq Draw Criticisim - 2002-01-23


A top Arab affairs expert in Egypt has criticized comments made by Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, who said that no Arab country would allow the United States to take military action against Iraq.

Secretary-General Moussa said late Tuesday at the Cairo International Book Fair that, "Iraq is an Arab country and Arabs will not allow Iraq to be struck."

However, Egyptian analyst Abdullah el-Ashaal said Mr. Moussa's comments could only have been made to reflect Arab public opinion. Mr. el-Ashaal says there is no consensus among Arab governments regarding any potential U.S. military operations in Iraq.

"He is not speaking for the governments but he may be speaking for the public opinion. Amr Moussa wants to be the hero of the whole scene now. He knows, very well, how to address public opinion through the media," he said.

There has been speculation throughout the Middle East that the United States could target Iraq in its drive against terrorism following the September 11 attacks against the U.S.

There has been no indication from the U.S. government of any plans to conduct military operations against Iraq. However, President Bush has warned the Iraqi president of unspecified consequences if he does not resume cooperation with U.N. weapons inspectors who went to Iraq after the 1991 Gulf War to make sure Iraq has destroyed its weapons of mass destruction. Iraq has barred the inspectors since 1998.

In March, the Arab League is scheduled to hold its annual summit in Beirut. The only announced agenda item is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and so far nothing about Iraq.

Secretary-General Moussa traveled to Baghdad last week for meetings with President Saddam Hussein. He said the Iraqi President had presented a new initiative for him to present to the United Nations and Arab leaders. Mr. Moussa declined to provide details of the initiative.

He discussed the matter with Kuwaiti officials Wednesday, during a brief visit to that country. Next week, Mr. Moussa travels to New York for meetings with U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Iraq's relations with other Arab countries were severely damaged after Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. Iraq has recently been trying to repair its relationship with Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. Many Middle East political analysts have said Iraq is trying to forge an Arab consensus against possible U.S. military action.