Middle East concern over Bush victory

As US President George Bush headed for a second term in office, the American election produced mixed reactions in the Middle East.

    Anti-US sentiment is running high in the Middle East

    Most countries in the region opted for caution after

    the White House claimed victory for the incumbent and challenger

    John Kerry conceded defeat.

    The Palestinian Authority's envoy to France admitted that

    veteran leader Yasir Arafat, who is being treated in Paris for a serious

    but undiagnosed illness, was "worried".

    Arafat "hopes the second mandate will be different" if Bush is

    confirmed the winner of Tuesday's election, Laila Shahid said.

    Echoing a generally negative Palestinian stand towards Bush,

    deputy parliament speaker Hasan Khraishah said that "neither Bush

    nor Kerry spoke about the Palestinian question during their


    "Bush has only served to isolate the Palestinian leadership and

    block the peace process," he said.

    In a region rife with anti-US sentiment, Kerry was seen by many

    Arabs as the candidate with less aggressive policies, or at

    least as the sole alternative to a man whose unpopularity is matched

    only by Israeli premier Ariel Sharon.

    Anti-US demonstration

    However, polls revealed some Arabs wanted Bush to win a second term

    in the hope that the Republican's Middle East policies would

    backfire on the United States.

    In Iran, where hatred of the "Great Satan" is deeply entrenched,

    thousands of demonstrators chanting "Death to America" marked the

    25th anniversary of the US hostage crisis at the former American

    embassy in Tehran.

    Arabs overwhelmingly opposed
    the US-led invasion of Iraq

    "If Bush is re-elected or not... we will continue to resist

    with determination and foil the US plots," said a female

    member of a Islamic volunteer brigade.

    And Muhammad Muhammadi, parliament's foreign affairs committee

    deputy speaker, warned that America was headed for "international

    and economic ruin unless Bush is more careful in his second term",

    the student news agency ISNA said.

    On the other hand,

     Israel and the US-backed interim leaders of Iraq were

    confident a second term for Bush would signal more of the same



    Before the election result was announced, Iraqi interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi was upbeat.

    "Whoever is the winner will be our friend. The United States has

    liberated us from a dictator and a very long period of war and

    agony," Allawi said in an Italian newspaper interview published on


    Israeli confidence

    An inexperienced new team under Senator Kerry would be worse

    than maintaining the status quo, officials and politicians in

    Baghdad said.

    "We know that Bush has an overall vision for Iraq, he overthrew

    Saddam Hussein and liberated the country and I think he wants to see

    the job done," said Muwaffaq al-Rubaye, a special advisor to the

    interim government.

    The Sharon administration is the
    US's closest ally in the region

    The re-election of the man who decided to invade Iraq in

    March 2003 comes as US-Iraqi forces are braced for a military

    assault on the Iraqi city of Falluja.

    Meanwhile, buoyed by unequivocal pre-election messages of support from both

    candidates, Israel was confident it would preserve its special

    relationship with Washington


    Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom said he did not expect Israel to

    come under any heightened US pressure over the dormant peace


    "So far we have cooperated with all American administrations and

    we will continue to do so. I don't think pressure will be necessary,

    Israel wants to advance on the road to peace," he said.



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