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Asian Leaders Mixed in Reaction to Capture of Saddam Hussein - 2003-12-15

Leaders in Asia reacted to the capture of Saddam Hussein with a mixture of glee and caution, with many hoping the news would speed the process of restoring Iraqi sovereignty.

In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, the reaction was muted. Foreign Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa says the arrest of the former Iraqi president has not changed how Indonesia felt about the situation in Iraq. Indonesia's leaders strongly opposed the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq.

Indonesian leaders also said they hoped the capture of Saddam Hussein will help bring peace to Iraq and return control of the country back to its citizens.

The response in Pakistan also was low-key. Foreign Office spokesman Masood Khan called the capture an important development.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday said he hopes that Saddam Hussein's capture would lead to improvements in Iraq. He said the capture would be positive if it brings major steps toward the stability and reconstruction of Iraq.

Prime Minister Koizumi's cabinet has approved a controversial plan to send troops to Iraq. He said he would continue to assess the security situation in Iraq before dispatching the soldiers. Australia's Prime Minister John Howard reacted to the news happily. He says the Iraqi people can breathe a sigh of relief now that the former dictator is no longer at large.

"I'm delighted most of all for the Iraqi people because Saddam's capture removes that haunting worry that he'll come back," Mr. Howard told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

However, Mr. Howard says the arrest of Saddam Hussein is unlikely to end attacks on the coalition forces in Iraq and on Iraqis helping the troops. Canberra is a staunch ally of the United States and Australian troops took part in the war to oust Saddam Hussein. China, which opposed the U.S.-led campaign to overthrow the Iraqi president, issued a statement saying it hoped Iraq would now be able to move forward without the threat of Saddam's return.

Markets in Asia reacted positively to the news. Tokyo's main share index was up more three percent at the close, to 10,490. Seoul's main share index closed at an all-year high of 822 after rising 16 points.