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Many Arabs Skeptical on Saddam’s Capture

December 14, 2003 GMT

CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Many in the Arab world greeted news of Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein’s capture with initial disbelief that turned to joy and hunger for revenge against the tyrant or, among some, sadness that an Arab leader should come to such a tawdry end.

``Impossible! No, I don’t believe it,″ cried Rami Makhoul, who works at a jewelry store in the Syrian capital Damascus. At an outdoor market in Cairo, shopkeepers could be heard yelling at each other, ``They say he’s been captured, do you believe that?″

In the Jordanian capital Amman, 77-year-old Sheik Abu Khaled saw the TV footage of the disheveled, bearded Saddam and declared, ``This captured man isn’t Saddam. He’d rather blow himself up.″

But as the news set in, many expressed joy that Saddam would never return to rule Iraq, while others were disappointed that he was captured by Americans or that he did not fight back rather than surrender.

``Saddam is a dictator and the Iraqi people suffered under him, but on the other hand, it was the (American) occupation that caught him,″ Mohammed Horani, a legislator with the Palestinian Parliament, said in the Gaza Strip. ``There will be a sense of confusion in the public.″

In the Yemeni capital San`a, Mohammed Abdel Qader Mohammadi, 50, a teacher, said he was surprised that the arrest took place as it did, with Saddam caught lying down in a tiny, underground hiding place then videotaped by the Americans, wild-haired and puffy-eyed, as a doctor checks inside his mouth.

``I expected him to resist or commit suicide before falling into American hands,″ Mohammadi said. ``He disappointed a lot of us, he’s a coward.″

But others who saw exiled Iraqis celebrating or TV footage of joyful people in Baghdad said the capture of Saddam could be a new chapter for the Iraqi people.

``I think this will bring security for the Iraqi people and hopefully they will set up real government rather than a de facto one,″ said Saudi lawyer Abdulrahman Mohammed. ``Saddam’s capture is also good for Iraq’s immediate neighbors and Saudi Arabia is one of them.″

Rasheed al-Osaimi, a 22-year-old Saudi student, said the Iraqi leader should be tried and executed. ``Saddam should not be spared, he should get the death penalty, which is the least he deserves,″ he said.

Makhoul, the jewelry store employee in Damascus who at first did not believe Saddam had been captured, said he had mixed feelings about the former Iraqi leader’s arrest.

``This is a great day for the Iraqi people and I share their happiness,″ he said. ``Saddam is a dictator and this should be the fate of all dictators.″

Makhoul, however, said he was sad that Saddam should meet his fate at the hands of the Americans, whom he said ``cared nothing about the Iraqi people.″

Samer Saado, an employee at a Damascus flower shop, said he didn’t care about Saddam but felt overwhelming sadness for Iraq and the entire Arab world.

``What the Americans are doing in Iraq and everywhere else is humiliating. There’s nothing to say we’re not next in line,″ he said.