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Arab World Awaits US Response to Iraqi Move on UN Inspectors - 2002-09-17

The Arab world is reacting to Iraq's announcement that it will allow the return of U.N. weapons inspectors without conditions. But Arab states are also eager to see how the United States will respond to Iraq's offer.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher described Iraq's statement that it will allow the return of weapons inspectors as "the beginning of a process of easing the tensions."

The governments of Jordan and Iran called the decision "wise and sensible."

"The region is breathing a sigh of relief today," said Egyptian political analyst Hassan Nafae, following Iraq's announcement.

Mr. Nafae, who heads the political science department at Cairo University, said the Arab League, representing 22 Arab states, played a key role in getting Iraq to agree to the return of the inspectors. He also says it was important that the Iraqi statement came before the U.N. Security Council enacted any new resolutions on Iraq.

"I think this was the position of the Arab League that because a new [Security Council] decision could imply the automatic use of force in case Iraq is not complying with the U.N. resolutions and could also include some other demands rather than the return of the inspectors," he said. "That's why I think, from a political point of view and from a tactical point of view, the Iraqi response was a good one."

Mr. Nafae says he believes Iraq reached its decision after Saudi Arabia announced it would back military action against Baghdad if the United Nations approved it.

But according to Abdel Moneim Sa'id, who is the head of the al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo, Iraq's willingness to allow inspectors will not prevent the United States from pressing for other Secuirty Council resolutions against Iraq.

"My information is that the United States will make a Security Council resolution that does not include only the inspectors but include other things," said Mr. Sa'id. "Probably things related to minorities to democratization and keep going on addressing Iraq."

"The Arab world will be watching the U.S. response with great interest," he added.