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World hopes Saddam's capture will ease Iraq's woes
( 2003-12-15 09:08) (Agencies)

Worldwide jubilation on Sunday at the capture of Saddam Hussein showed how friendless the fugitive Iraqi dictator was.

Even France, Russia, Germany and the world's most populous Muslim nation Indonesia, all fierce opponents of the U.S.-led war to oust Saddam, lauded his arrest by American forces who seized him on Saturday without firing a shot.

An Iraqi man holds an AK-47 in downtown Baghdad on Sunday while celebrating news of the capture of Saddam Hussein.  [AP]
Congratulations heaped on George W. Bush for the stunning coup thrilled the U.S. president, who said Saddam would now face the justice he "denied to millions" but that his capture did not mean the end of violence in the chaotic country.

"You will not have to fear the rule of Saddam Hussein ever again," he said in a message to Iraqis from the White House.

World leaders, especially those who opposed the war, also said Saddam's arrest should speed the transition to a sovereign government and shorten the U.S.-led occupation of Iraq.

"This is a major event which should strongly contribute to the democratization and the stabilization of Iraq and allow the Iraqis to once more be masters of their destiny in a sovereign Iraq," said French President Jacques Chirac.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder saluted Bush by telegram and urged greater efforts to mend the shattered oil state.

"Saddam Hussein caused horrible suffering to his people and the region. I hope the capture will help the international community's effort to rebuild and stabilize Iraq," he wrote.

Britain, Spain, Poland, Australia and other countries that backed the war and sent troops to Iraq hailed the capture.

"Until he was finally killed or captured, there was always the fear he would come back. This will lift an enormous psychological burden off the Iraqi people," Australian Prime Minister John Howard said.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the arrest could give fresh impetus to efforts to pacify Iraq.


Arab and Middle Eastern leaders who had opposed the war shed no tears for Saddam.

"Saddam Hussein was a menace to the Arab world, and his reign of terror will be remembered for its brutality, aggression and oppression," said the Saudi ambassador to the United States, Prince Bandar bin Sultan.

Gunfire crackled in celebration around Baghdad and across Iraq and Kuwaitis, whose occupation by Saddam sparked the U.S.-led Gulf War in 1991, were elated.

In Afghanistan, talk turned almost immediately to the hunt by U.S.-led forces for Osama bin Laden, the al Qaeda leader who has evaded efforts to track him down for more than two years.

Saddam's arrest is a boon for Bush after bloody attacks on U.S. forces and their allies that have increased over the months since the former Iraqi leader's ousting on April 9.

Bush's staunchest ally, British Prime Minister Tony Blair, was one of the first to confirm the arrest.

"Let this be more than a moment for simply rejoicing. Let it be a moment to reach out and reconcile," he said.


Saddam, whose two sons died in a July gunbattle with U.S. troops, had no close allies abroad and his arch foe Iran, whom he fought for most of the 1980s, joined in the call for the fallen dictator to pay for what he had done.

"Saddam should be prosecuted because of the crimes he has committed against the Iraqi and Iranian people," Vice President Mohammad Ali Abtahi said.

"Iranians have suffered a lot because of him and mass graves in Iraq prove the crimes he has committed against the Iraqi people. The...arrest of a criminal has made me very happy."

An Iraqi government to be formed by the end of June will be free to re-establish the death penalty for any trial. Saddam made free use of execution, killing thousands during his years in power.

Ordinary Arabs begrudgingly welcomed Saddam's capture, their satisfaction that the dictator was behind bars tinged with annoyance that Bush would get the credit, and there were isolated voices of lament for America's key foe.

Many Palestinians were seized by disbelief and gloom. The former Iraqi ruler was a hero to some for his anti-Israeli stand and for helping families of Palestinians dead in an uprising.

"It's a black day in history," said Sadiq Husam, 33, a taxi driver in Ramallah in the West Bank. "I am saying so not because Saddam is an Arab, but because he is the only man who said no to American injustice in the Middle East."

The invasion of Iraq failed to find weapons of mass destruction, Bush's main justification for going to war, and triggered a bloody guerrilla insurgency.

"The weapon of mass destruction has been found and now we can, and must, turn over a new page," Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi told Il Foglio newspaper.

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