- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 10, 2001

The State Department yesterday said Arab and Muslim governments privately support U.S. attacks on Afghanistan even as anti-American protests simmered in the streets of Pakistan, Gaza Strip, Egypt and Indonesia.
Most Arab and other Muslim governments have remained silent in public while privately endorsing U.S. efforts to destroy the network of prime terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden, U.S. officials said. Iran and Iraq remained prominent exceptions, with both countries officially condemning the strikes.
Iraq also received a warning yesterday from the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations not to take advantage of the crisis caused by the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
"We've welcomed the leaders that have spoken out, we've welcomed what they've said," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher when asked about Arab and Muslim reaction to three days of U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan.
"To the extent that people want to talk about what they're doing, that's great. To the extent they don't, that's fine, too. What matters is that they cooperate and that they work with us, and we've found a great deal of practical, effective cooperation against terrorism."
Many Muslim leaders fear that radical Islamic groups could inflame public opinion against them. Thus the U.S. attacks have become a test of the stability of many Muslim governments.
Mr. Boucher said every leader must "take into account their own particular political and other circumstances.
"We've moved to the stage of active cooperation with any number of governments. Some of this cooperation is visible. Some of it, in the intelligence or law-enforcement or other areas, may never be visible."
Pakistani leader Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for example, continued to support the U.S. attacks on Afghanistan but he called for the operations to be ended swiftly.
He was dealing with scattered riots of fewer than 5,000 people each in and around the cities of Quetta and Peshawar, close to the Afghan border, where three anti-U.S. rioters were shot dead by police yesterday.
In Indonesia, police fired warning shots at an estimated 400 demonstrators who attacked U.S. diplomatic missions in two cities.
The State Department issued warnings to Americans in Indonesia after Islamic extremists began "sweeping" hotels in a search for Americans to attack.
However, the anti-U.S. gatherings were relatively tiny considering that Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, has 220 million people. Pakistan, the second most populous Muslim nation, has 145 million.
In the Palestinian territories, police took a rare stand against radicals by firing on crowds Monday, killing two anti-American demonstrators. Yesterday, Yasser Arafat's administration took the startling decision to ask Israel to provide it with anti-riot gear to contain the protests the same gear Israel has used to contain the pro-Palestinian protests of the intifada or uprising over the past year.
Mr. Arafat thus placed himself fully on the side of the United States and against bin Laden even though the Saudi-born fugitive has claimed the Sept. 11 attacks were intended to hasten the liberation of Palestine.
Oman, which is hosting thousands of British troops and where demonstrations are rare, allowed anti-American protests to go ahead. "America is the enemy of God," students chanted.
And in Jordan, the leader of the mainstream Islamic party said, "Muslims will win the battle in this new phase of the crusades."
Iraqi Foreign Minister Naji Sabri said in Qatar, where ministers from the 56-nation Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) were to meet today that Muslim countries "should defend themselves and their religious values which are being targeted by the new U.S.-Zionist war campaign."
However, it was expected that the OIC would not condemn the U.S. air strikes, mainly because most members are fed up with the Taliban regime. But the organization was likely to express solidarity with impoverished Afghans.
Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein received a message from President Bush through America's U.N. Ambassador John Negroponte warning him not to try an attack on his neighbors during the current crisis, diplomats said.
Turkey, and a NATO ally and the first Muslim nation to back the anti-terrorism campaign, sought parliamentary authorization to send troops abroad to support U.S.-led operations.
Iran reformist President Mohammed Khatami called on Washington to halt its strikes.
"Thousands of people should not be killed under the pretext of fighting terrorism," he said.
Iran fears a new influx of Afghan refugees, already blamed for an epidemic of opium addiction and other crime.
But analysts said Iran privately would welcome the downfall of the radical Sunni Taliban regime, which killed 12 Iranian diplomats in 1998 when it seized the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
Arab League chief Amr Moussa said yesterday that "the Arab position is clear. We reject any strike against an Arab country."
He was reacting to U.S. warnings it would not limit the attacks to Afghanistan in fighting terrorism a veiled threat to attack Iraq, Syria or Iran. All are listed as terrorist supporters by the State Department. Afghanistan is not an Arab country.

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