| Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak. (Reuters)
London, Aug. 27 (Reuters): Renewed US talk of war to topple Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein drew defiance from Baghdad today and a warning from Egypt’s President Hosni Mubarak that any such attack could plunge West Asia into chaos.
US warplanes attacked a radar site in northern Iraq and an air defence command facility in the south after what the US military called hostile acts against US and British jets patrolling two no-fly zones in Iraqi airspace. The allied planes struck as Arab leaders digested yesterday’s call from US Vice-President Dick Cheney for pre-emptive action against Iraq, saying Baghdad’s weapons of mass destruction posed a mortal danger to the United States.
“We could not care less about the threats that are out there. Iraq has a long history with these threats and such despotism,” Iraqi Vice-President Taha Yassin Ramadan told reporters in Syria after meeting President Bashar al-Assad.
In Baghdad, President Saddam Hussein told Qatar’s foreign minister that a US assault on Iraq would be an attack on “all the Arab nation”, the official Iraqi News Agency reported.
Saddam said Iraq had implemented all its obligations under UN Security Council resolutions and accused the world body of failing to reciprocate by lifting crippling sanctions imposed 12 years ago for Baghdad’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
“If there is a genuine desire to find a solution, it has to be based on international legitimacy, international law and the UN charter... and has to include implementing commitments by all parties,” the Iraqi leader added.
Iraq has refused to allow UN weapons inspectors into the country since a US-British bombing campaign in December 1999. US fears that Iraq is developing doomsday weapons and might turn them over to terrorists increased after the September 11 attacks on US cities, which killed around 3,000 people.
But Cheney’s remarks caused fresh alarm among Washington’s Arab allies, which strongly supported the US-led coalition that drove Iraqi troops from Kuwait in the 1991 Gulf War.
“Striking Iraq is something that could have repercussions and post-strike developments. We fear chaos happening in the region,” Egypt’s Mubarak told a group of students, adding there was “no need” to attack the sanctions-hit Arab country.
Qatar’s foreign minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim bin Jabr al-Thani said he was visiting Baghdad to avert a “catastrophe”, in clear reference to US threats to oust Saddam by force.
Qatar, which hosts a big US airbase that is now being upgraded, has joined other Arab countries in opposing any US attack on Iraq.“We are of course against any military action,” al-Thani told reporters yesterday.
Anti-American feeling is high in the region because of US support for Israel as it tries to crush the Palestinian uprising against Israel’s occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
“(Cheney’s) position can only express the depth of rancour and hatred for the Arab and Muslim nations,” said Ramadan, urging Arabs to close ranks in response.
Ramadan was quoted by Iraq’s Rafidain newspaper today as saying the return of UN weapons inspectors to Iraq — a step the UN inspection chief has said might avert war — was futile if Washington planned to attack Iraq anyway.
Syria’s official al-Baath newspaper accused Washington of seeking to install puppet regimes across West Asia to serve US and Israeli interests. “All the Arabs without exception are at risk,” it said.