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Arab voices: Protests and pleas for peace

Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said weapons inspectors are not allowed in his country.
Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa said weapons inspectors are not allowed in his country.

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(CNN) -- The following is a sampling of media reports and interviews from newsmakers, officials and journalists from and in the Middle East with views of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Below is an article that appeared on the Qatar-based network's Web site about anti-American protests in Baghdad, Iraq.

Tens of thousands of demonstrators in Baghdad protested against the United States' presence in Iraq on Friday, following Friday prayers. Waving banners in English and Arabic reading, "Leave our country, we want peace," protestors outside of the Abu Hanifa Al-Numan Mosque chanted, "No to America, no to Saddam" and "This homeland is for the Shia and Sunni," in a sign of unity among the two groups.

The majority of Iraq's 25-million strong population, 60 percent, [is] Shia, which had been ruled ruthlessly under Saddam Hussein's mostly Sunni elitist regime. In recent days there has been mounting discontent from among the Shia to Washington's presence in Iraq. Protestors called for unity among Iraqis and urged all to put aside past conflicts and differences.

Al-Jazeera TV correspondent Youseff Al-Shouly reported it was the first non-state organized protest in the Iraqi capital in decades, describing it as a significant development. In the first Friday prayers since U.S. tanks rolled into the heart of Baghdad last week, Imam Ahmad Al-Kubaisi said in his sermon the United States invaded Iraq to defend Israel and denied that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

The following is an excerpt from this Lebanon-based, privately-owned Web site, which posted an article about U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Syria.

Syria's foreign minister has welcomed U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's upcoming visit as a "goodwill gesture" after weeks of sharp tension, but said U.N. inspectors would not be allowed to look for mass destruction weapons Washington alleges Syria harbors. At a news conference in Cairo after talks with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Thursday, Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk al-Sharaa also warned the United States against a lengthy occupation in Iraq.

"We are facing a dangerous transformation and the occupation of an Arab country, Iraq," Sharaa said. "We have said that occupation is rejected by the majority, if not all, of the Iraqi people and the days ahead will prove this. The appropriate method to achieve stability ... is the withdrawal of the invading forces and allowing Iraqis to have their own government," Sharaa added.

... Syria, he said, has tabled before the Security Council a proposal backed by the Arab bloc at the U.N., proposing the removal of mass destruction weapons from the whole of the Middle East. "Syria, consequently, will not allow any weaponry inspection on its territory. It will, instead, actively cooperate with the rest of the world to make the Middle East a zone free from mass destruction weapons," Sharaa added.


The following is an article excerpt from the English edition of the Saudi Web site, Asharq Al-Awsat.

Iraq's confused postwar administrative landscape became even more blurred ... as U.S. forces denied sanctioning the appointments of two Iraqis claiming to be the governor and mayor of Baghdad. Two close associates of an Iraqi opposition leader said they had been elected governor and mayor of Baghdad by tribal and religious chiefs acting with the consent of occupying U.S. troops.

But Capt. Joe Plenzler, a spokesman for the U.S. Marines here, shot down the claim. "Anyone declaring themselves as mayor or anything else is just not true. The U.S. government has not appointed anyone. Anyone can call themselves anything they want to," Plenzler told AFP. "But future appointments like this will be handled through USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development)."

Mohammed Mohsen Zubaidi, a veteran anti-Saddam politician, looked official enough with a huge media entourage to boot as he proclaimed himself head of a new interim administration for Baghdad. Zubaidi said Iraq's political life was reawakening, with 65 parties preparing to resume activities banned by the regime before the fall of Baghdad on April 9.

"We will be a model of democracy," the 51-year-old Zubaidi told a news conference at the Palestine Hotel before leaving on a tour of the battered capital with a flock of reporters and photographers in tow. Zubaidi, who spent 15 years in northern Iraq and was under a death sentence from Saddam's regime, said he was heading an executive committee tasked with restoring normalcy. ...

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