Arabs Say Attacks Are Unbalanced
By DONNA ABU-NASR
October 8, 2001, 10:37 AM EDT
DAMASCUS, Syria -- Across the Mideast on Monday, many Arabs expressed anger at the U.S. counterattack against terrorism and denounced America for ignoring what they feel is another kind of terror -- Israeli actions against Palestinians.
Mohammed Kheir, a Syrian government employee, accused the United States of applying double standards by moving against Afghanistan for harboring chief terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden.
"America is acting against Osama bin Laden without showing us proof while the evidence of what Israel is doing to the Palestinians is there for all to see on television," he said.
In the Jordanian capital of Amman, bank clerk Samar al-Naji expressed concern for civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the U.S. military strike, which was launched Sunday.
"They say their target is bin Laden and they strike at innocent people in Afghanistan who have nothing to do with terrorism," al-Naji said.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has rejected claims of significant civilian casualties and said strikes were limited to Afghanistan's Taliban-run military installations and locations linked to bin Laden, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
Amid Arab anger, Americans in the Middle East took a few extra security precautions but said otherwise it was "business as usual."
Most U.S. Embassies throughout the region were closed to the public Monday. The U.S. Embassies in Kuwait and Oman were operating normally. American schools in Bahrain, Syria, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Oman and Yemen were closed.
Students protests on campuses across Egypt were peaceful and generally small. At Ain Shams University in Cairo, protesters performed the prayers for the dead.
"Our rulers, why are you silent? Have you got orders from America?" chanted students at Zagazig University north of Cairo.
Egypt is among the moderate Arab governments that support the U.S. anti-terror campaign, but President Hosni Mubarak faces widespread public opposition to the United States.
Student protesters in Sudan took to the streets of the capital of Khartoum, shouting "Long live bin Laden!" and "down with America!"
In Lebanon, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Hussein Fadlallah told The Associated Press in a telephone interview he rejected the U.S.-led war against Afghanistan.
"I think America is confronting terrorism with terrorism," he said.
Iran's Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi expressed concern that the "vast" military operation against Afghanistan "will not eliminate terrorism, but, on the contrary, it could expand (it) further."
Moderate governments were largely silent. But after Syrian President Bashar Assad met with Jordan's King Abdullah II in Amman, the prime ministers of the two countries issued a joint statement condemning both the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States and "terrorism in all its forms, including the killing of innocent civilians to achieve political gains."
They also applauded "the resistance of the Palestinian people against the Israeli occupation and condemned the oppressive Israeli practices against the Palestinians."
Syria traditionally takes a hard line against the United States, making it significant that it would sign on to a relatively mild statement with moderate Jordan.
Copyright © 2001, The Associated Press