CAIRO - Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak said on Monday the US-led war on Iraq would produce “one hundred new bin Ladens”, driving more Muslims to anti-Western militancy.
“When it is over, if it is over, this war will have horrible consequences,” Mubarak told Egyptian soldiers in the city of Suez.
“Instead of having one (Osama) bin Laden, we will have 100 bin Ladens,” he added. Osama bin Laden is the Saudi-born fugitive Islamic militant leader blamed by the United States for the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Egypt, a key regional US ally which has cracked down hard on Islamic militants, publicly opposes the war launched by Washington to overthrow President Saddam Hussein.
European opponents of the war, led by French President Jacques Chirac, have also argued that military action against Iraq would fuel terrorism and split the international coalition assembled by Washington to fight bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.
Mubarak said Iraqi forces fighting US and British troops were “guarding Iraq’s lands and defending its national honour and nobility” in the conflict.
Reflecting widespread public anger at what many Arabs see as Western aggression against an Arab country, he said the war woould cause a “great tragedy (and) destroy a deep-rooted culture and people”.
“Egypt’s position has been and still is clear in rejecting...the military option and rejecting participation in military action of the coalition forces against brotherly Iraq,” he said.
Mubarak said the war had raised many questions, especially among the Arab and Muslim peoples of the Middle East, about the ”credibility of the international system of collective security represented in the United Nations”.
Many Arabs think Washington has employed double standards in enforcing UN resolutions on Iraq while not making Israel comply with resolutions demanding withdrawal from Palestinian territories and an end to Jewish settlements.
Mubarak read out the highlights of an international plan for Israeli-Palestinian peace called the “roadmap”, saying that while the Palestinian Authority had accepted it, the government of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon had asked for 100 changes.
“This means the roadmap has been rendered meaningless. Unless the big powers agree and put forward a mechanism to implement it without any alterations...I believe the roadmap will not move on the right road and it might lead to complications,” he said.