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Arab states vent rising wrath

The Mideast crisis has prompted varied steps against Israel and US. A regional roundup.

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Iraq won't sell oil to "the enemy." Egypt has cancelled all flights to Israel.

Arab groups are starting to boycott American companies.

Driven by a rising anger in Middle Eastern streets, leaders of Arab states and Iran are trying out new – and old – strategies to show their opposition to the US and its support for Israel.

"Arab countries are throwing their collective back at these two nations," says Bahgat Korany, an Egyptian professor of international relations at the American University in Cairo.

Arab states, say political analysts, are seeing evidence of their worst fear: Israel's Ariel Sharon and US President George Bush increasingly seeing the world through the same "war on terror" lens. It's a perspective that deepens Israel's diplomatic isolation, and makes it difficult for the US to count on its Arab allies for a future strike against Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq. These concerns were reinforced, they say, last Thursday when Mr. Bush referred to the Israeli leader, whom many Arabs consider a war criminal, as "a man of peace."

Clearly, Iraq is the greatest beneficiary of the current regional coalescing of support for Palestinians. But most Arab leaders have limited options when it comes to striking back at the US or Israel. So far, a survey of the region shows that most Arab leaders are expressing their dissatisfaction largely as a means of controlling and channeling the growing militancy in their own back yards.

Iraq and Iran

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is perhaps the one Arab leader who can smile with satisfaction at the crisis gripping the Middle East. Washington's plans to topple the Iraqi leader have been undermined by swelling resentment in the Arab world against the administration's pro-Israel stance.

Although Arab leaders distrust the Iraqi leader, they are in no mood to support a US-led drive to oust him. Iraq has made an effort to improve its ties with neighboring Arab states. At the Arab summit in Beirut last month, for example, Iraq made a public commitment to respect the sovereignty of Kuwait, which it invaded in 1990, and both countries pledged to improve bilateral relations.


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