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Mixed Reaction Among Arabs to Bush UN Speech

Following President Bush's address to the U.N. General Assembly, VOA's Greg LaMotte spoke with several political analysts in Egypt. He brings us this report.

Abdel Moneim Said is the head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo. He says President Bush's list of Iraqi violations of U.N. Security Council resolutions was powerful and effective.

"I think he made a strong case," he said. " I think he made it in the form of multilateralism, and, in this case, he put the ball in the U.N. court, in one way or another. He didn't say, 'I will act if you didn't,' but it was there. It was implicit in his speech. I think he made a strong case, with a long list of clear violations of Iraq to U.N. resolutions."

Arab leaders have been unified in opposition to any military strike against Iraq, fearing it would destabilize the region. Mr. Said says the Arab world will wait for Iraq's response at the U.N. before deciding whether to change its position.

Hassan Nafae, a political analyst and head of Cairo University's political science department, says Mr. Bush did not persuade him that Iraq posed enough of a threat to warrant military action.

"President Bush didn't provide any further justification. He didn't give any evidence that Iraq has more capability of arms of mass destruction. He doesn't furnish any single evidence at all," Mr. Nafae said. "There's really nothing new in his discourse. So, I think, what this speech will do is convince the whole Arab world that the United States is unjust and biased. Is the United States ready to enforce the Security Council resolutions vis-a-vis Israel? I doubt it very much."

Abdullah el-Ashaal, an expert on Arab affairs who lectures at several Cairo universities, says Arab leaders may not like Saddam Hussein, but they don't want him ousted by military force.

"They want everything (to) be settled according to law and legality. They want Saddam Hussein to respect the Security Council resolutions concerning the return of inspectors, as well," he said. "They want the United States to also refer to the Security Council resolutions and not to decide unilaterally that it should attack Saddam Hussein."

By going before the United Nations, Mr. el Ashaal says, President Bush sent a positive signal to the Arab world. But he says the president's determination to end the regime of Saddam Hussein, if the U.N. fails to act, will not find political acceptance throughout the Arab world.