- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

BEIRUT, Lebanon, Feb. 4 (UPI) — Two top Arab officials warned Tuesday that a war on Iraq will have a devastating political, economic and social impact on the whole Arab region.

Amr Mousa, secretary-general of the 22-member Arab League, saw "endless losses" and "great instability" in the region if the U.S. war on Iraq starts.

"We have to face this matter but we also have to face another reality: the region cannot confront such a kind of war and the Arab countries cannot stand idle," Mousa told Lebanon's As Safir newspaper. "This is a war against an Arab country" in contrast to the 1991 Gulf war which was meant to liberate Kuwait. "We cannot and should not participate in striking any Arab country, including Iraq," he said.

Asked about Arab efforts to spare Iraq a war, Mousa replied: "For sure, we are not the Soviet Union. We are facing a superpower (the United States) and we should be aware of what's going on. We do not declare war on a superpower because we cannot do this but we should do everything to prevent this superpower from striking the Arab countries."

The Arab League chief has been outspoken in his opposition to military operations in Iraq. On Sunday he declared Arab leaders, who were to hold a summit meeting next March, were exerting efforts to save the region and should have "a say" because of the dangerous consequences of war on Iraq.

"The Iraqi issue is an Arab matter in the first place and we should have a say in what the region could be exposed to such as destruction and dangerous impact that might result from any military or political action," Mousa said after a meeting with Lebanese President Emile Lahoud in Beirut.

He called for an Arab action to "save the whole region" and said efforts were underway to hold a meeting of the Arab foreign ministers in Cairo later this month as a prelude for the Arab summit meeting initially set to take place in Bahrain during March.

Ibrahim Qweidar, director-general of the Arab Labor Organization, told al-Mustaqbal newspaper Tuesday that the war on Iraq will have direct psychological, social and economic impact on the whole Arab region.

"The economic impact will be terrible and will not only affect Iraq's neighbors but also will expand from Morocco to Bahrain," Qweidar said. "The Gulf region will witness great economic problems and there will be stagnation in the oil sector as never seen before."

He said economic development programs will be thus affected and the tourism sector, which is the main source of revenues for many Arab countries including Lebanon, will suffer great losses.

Noting that there were currently some 20 million Arabs unemployed, Qweidar said unemployment rate will further increase because no job opportunities will be available.

"If the war (on Iraq) lasts a month, it will undoubtedly negatively affect the whole Arab region for the 10 coming years," he concluded.

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