Arab League foreign ministers are calling for the immediate withdrawal of U.S. and British forces. This, observers say, was the least these governments could do in the face of recent public protests against the war.

At the end of their day-long meeting in Cairo, foreign ministers in the Arab League condemned what they call "the U.S. and British aggression against Iraq." They adopted a resolution saying the attack on Iraq was in violation of the U-N charter and in defiance of the international community."

Kuwait was the only country that expressed some reservations about the resolution.

Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the next step was a call to the U.N. Security Council to put an end to the U.S. led war. "We, the Arab countries, are going to request a meeting of the security council in order to take a decision to stop the war and order withdrawal, put an end," he said.

Analysts, such as Hussein Nafae from Cairo University, say Monday's statement showed that Arab leaders were trying to bridge the gap between their own positions and the anger among their populations. "This is an immediate reaction to two things," he said. "First of all the resistance of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi army against this aggression. And secondly they feel really the dangers and the pressure of the Arab street."

Mr. Nafae adds that pro-western Arab governments needed to show they were doing something in support of Iraq in order to placate their own citizens. Large public demonstrations have taken place since the beginning of the war, some of these clashes have turned violent.

The Arab League also called on "all Arab states to abstain from participating in any military action damaging to the unity and territorial integrity of Iraq or any other Arab country." But the resolution stopped short of demanding Arab states deny assistance to U.S. led forces, a reflection of the deep divisions within the region. Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain are providing direct assistance to coalition troops.

Meantime, Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri warned his Arab neighbours, saying those who stabbed Iraq in the back would bear that responsibility in history.