An Islamist website on Tuesday carried a video clip of Nick the decapitation, with a statement saying a group linked to al-Qaida carried it out in revenge for the abuse of Iraqis by US troops. 

"That man went to help rebuild Iraq. I am very sad that he was killed but his stupid government put him there...If his family are looking where to put the blame, they shouldn't look further than the White House," Cairo office worker Mansur Muhammad said.

"This action was bad because it makes Arabs look like barbarians but that's what the Americans think anyway. My fear is that now Americans will feel Iraqis deserve the torture," said Mamduh, an Egyptian pharmacy student who did not want to give his full name. 

Killing criticised

Some Arabs said Abu Musab Zarqawi, a leading al-Qaida figure who is alleged to have led the decapitation, had failed the very people he said he was avenging by strengthening Washington's hand in Iraq.

"What religion or sect condones such a barbaric act? This is abominable, God curse Zarqawi"

Hasan Ahmad Jar Allah

Others said the killing was against the teachings of Islam.

"Zarqawi is an enemy of the Arab and Muslim nation because he distorted their image and portrayed Islam in an incorrect manner," said Hasan Ahmad Jar Allah, 41, a Saudi government employee, who had seen the tape on the Internet.

"What religion or sect condones such a barbaric act? This is abominable, God curse Zarqawi," he said of the tape which showed masked men sawing Berg's head off with a large knife and holding it in the air.

Counter-productive

One Gulf analyst, who did not want to be identified, said the killing would prove counter-productive for Iraqis.

Many Arabs agreed the killing
would be counter-productive

"This strengthens the position of Americans in Iraq. American people are going to start asking their government when it will retaliate," he said.

To others Berg's beheading was an appropriate response to what they see as US abuses against ordinary Iraqi civilians as well as prisoners.

"This was a justified retaliation. The Americans had committed very ugly actions against the Iraqi people in general and Iraqi prisoners in particular," said Muhammad al-Barguti, a
24-year-old security guard in the West Bank city of Ram Allah.

'Tit for tat'

Mutaz, a Syrian taxi driver working in the United Arab Emirates, went further:

"The Americans deserve even more than this for what they are doing in Iraq. Every American should watch this tape to see what is coming to them, or are they the only ones allowed to kill?"

"Every American should watch this tape to see what is coming to them, or are they the only ones allowed to kill?"

Mutaz,
Syrian taxi driver

Writer Jamal Ghitani suspects the American intelligence agency CIA of "having fabricated and put the (Berg) images on the Internet to make people forget the scandal of torture in Abu Ghraib prison and hide the roots of evil which lie in the occupation, oppression and extermination of man in Iraq and in Palestine."

He told AFP: "Violence generates violence. The region is in this infernal cycle. I reject these visions of horror. But to stop the violence is the responsibility of the strongest."

Khalid Ayman Abd al-Fattah, a 24-year-old journalism student, criticised what he called the orchestrated indignation of the West over the killing of an American or Israeli and its "silence on the atrocious crimes" committed in Iraq.

"While nothing justifies the murder and torture of civilians, the rule must be the same for all," he said.