Toll rises, protests mount over Baghdad bombing

The US and British bombings of targets around Baghdad two days ago killed three and injured 30, official Iraqi television is quoted by AFP as saying Sunday in a revised toll. Earlier figures provided by Iraqi hospital sources, mentioned only two dead and twenty injured. In the meantime, Arabs denounce Iraq bombing as a "negative step" for new US administration. US President George W. Bush has made a bad start with the Arab world by overreaching US power to strike Iraq in disregard of humanitarian concerns, Arab officials and media said Sunday. Egypt, a key US ally in the region, said the airstrike Friday was a "negative step which we cannot accept and we cannot understand its aims." The strike, which Washington and London said was in response to an increased threat to their planes patrolling the no-fly zones, "threatens Iraq's security and its sovereignty over its territory," the government daily Al-Ahram said. In Gaza City, Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat's top aide Nabil Abu Rudeina said that "striking Iraq will only lead to more tension." Hundreds of protesters also turned out in Amman, the capital city of Jordan, torching US, British and Israeli flags in front of the US embassy and UN headquarters. Jordanian Prime Minister Ali Abu Ragheb told parliament that Amman "categorically rejects any form of aggression against brother Iraq and the unjustified use of force ... which goes beyond UN resolutions and international consensus." In the United Arab Emirates, Al-Khaleej slammed the air strikes as "an act of banditry inspired by the law of the jungle imposed by Washington and its valets, Britain and Israel." Tunisian Prime Minister Mohamed Ghannouchi with his Libyan counterpart Mubarak al-Shamekh issued a joint statement after a meeting in Tripoli demanding "a halt to the aggressive actions against Baghdad in violation of United Nations resolutions." And the Sudanese parliament issued a statement denouncing the air raids as "barbaric and a violation of the sovereignty" of Iraq. In Yemen, a foreign ministry spokesman said the government "looks with grave concern on the bombing." The only direct sign of Arab support for the raids came from Kuwait, which provided bases for the warplanes that carried out the strikes, where an official said the operation "basically came as a response to Iraqi positions which necessitated the attacks." Elsewhere, not only in the Arab world, there are voices denouncing the US-British joint action. New Zealand called US and UK bombings in Iraq a threat to peace which “would help rather than damage its leader Saddam Hussein,” Foreign Affairs Minister Phil Goff is quoted by AFP as saying Sunday. Concern has been expressed not only by moderate Arab nations that participated in the war against Iraq but also a number of NATO states, such as France and Turkey, that fought in Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein.