3,000 Jordanians protest against Saddam Hussein’s execution

In the largest pro-Saddam demonstration to date, some 3,000 protesters marched through the Jordanian capital on Friday to lash out at American and Shiite Muslim influence in the Arab world.

The protesters, mostly from Sunni Muslim or leftist opposition groups, accused Iran of being involved in the hasty hanging of the former Iraqi dictator, who was executed Saturday in Baghdad.

"Death to America and to Iran," shouted the crowd, who marched from a mosque in down town Amman after the noon prayers, bearing portraits of Saddam and waving the Iraqi flag.

"Executing Saddam is a heinous crime and it is very obvious that Iran was behind his killing," said protester Bassam al-Qadoumi, echoing common Arab fears that the sectarian strife in Iraq reflects a strategy by Iran - the Shiite powerhouse - to extend its influence across the region.

In a leaked video of the execution, Saddam is seen being taunted with chants of "Muqtada, Muqtada" moments before being hung. The radical Shiite Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr is a main backer of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who pushed for the quick execution of Saddam.

Protesters in Jordan vowed to avenge Saddam's death by retaliating against al-Sadr, and accused the Shiite Hezbollah group in Lebanon of also being an Iranian stooge. Banners denounced a "Shiite crescent" in the Mideast, referring to warnings by Jordan's King Abdullah II that Iran was boosting its influence through Shiites in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.

A key U.S.-ally in the region, Jordan is home to the largest Iraqi exile community with some 800,000 refugees, including two of Saddam's daughters, the AP says.

Multiple demonstrations have been held in Arab capitals since Saddam's hanging, and several regional leaders condemned the execution, the AP reports.

In Lebanon on Friday, some 500 protesters carried a token coffin wrapped with an Iraqi flag in a staged funeral to honor Saddam.

The protesters, led by former members of Saddam's Baath Party and by Bushra al-Khalil, a Lebanese lawyer for the toppled dictator, also shouted slogans against al-Sadr and against Abdulaziz al-Hakim, who leads the largest Shiite bloc in Iraq's parliament.

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