WAR WITH IRAQ
U.S. opening strike draws applause, sharp criticism
Foreign workers, many from Pakistan, India and the Philippines, try to get seats on airliners departing Kuwait today after the United States attacked Iraq. (ASSOCIATED PRESS / March 20, 2003)
AFGHANISTAN: Residents of Kabul, Afghanistan's capital, today condemned the United States and its allies for attacking Iraq. "Today is a dark day for Muslims," said Sher Aga, 50, a teacher of military aviation at the Air Force Academy in Kabul. "My heart is crying for the nation of Iraq. I hope the aggressors will be buried." Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government Wednesday said the use of force to disarm Iraq was justified -- a point of view that starkly contrasts with that of most of the population. "We condemn this attack on Iraq. The Muslim world should defend them," said Sayed Mafouz Durani, a 60-year-old soldier. "Today they're attacking Iraq; tomorrow they'll be attacking another Muslim country. All Muslim countries should unite against this aggression." Washington says Afghanistan is among about 30 countries that are part of a "Coalition for the Immediate Disarmament of Iraq." But there is no popular support for the military campaign here, despite the success of the U.S.-led antiterror war to oust the Taliban regime in 2001.
ISRAEL: A senior Israeli official said today that Prime Minister Ariel Sharon received advance warning from the United States about its first strike against Iraq, as Israeli civilians began carrying gas masks to protect them from a possible Iraqi attack. Maj. Gen. Amos Gilad, the official government spokesman concerning the Iraq campaign, confirmed broadcast reports that Sharon received word from the U.S. administration before the air attack. "It has already been made public that the prime minister got warning," he told Army Radio, but Israel had no active role. Gilad said Israel is not part of the war against Iraq, "and therefore Israel should not be disappointed that it was not part of the planning for this particular operation."
JAPAN: Japan's prime minister said today that he supports the U.S.-led campaign to disarm Iraq by force and promised his country would contribute to postwar reconstruction. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi was speaking at a news conference shortly after President Bush announced that the United States had struck Iraq. "Iraq has continued to ignore the United Nations resolutions and has not acted sincerely," Koizumi said. "Therefore, I understand and support U.S. action to disarm Iraq." Koizumi's conservative administration has stood by the United States, Japan's main ally, throughout the Iraqi crisis. Constitutional restrictions prevent Tokyo from sending troops to fight with U.S.-led forces. But the prime minister said today that his government wants to help rebuild Iraq after the fighting is over.
GERMANY: The German government said today that it was dismayed by the start of the U.S.-led military campaign against Iraq and offered humanitarian help to Iraq. "News of the start of the war against Iraq has sparked grave concern and dismay in the federal government," it said in a statement. "Now everything must be done to avert a humanitarian disaster for Iraq's civilian population." The government opposes the war and formed an alliance with France to try to prevent it.
RUSSIA: Russian President Vladimir Putin today demanded an end to the U.S.-led attack on Iraq, calling it a "big political mistake" that threatens international security and could cause a major humanitarian catastrophe. "This military action cannot be justified by anything," Putin said to top officials in the Kremlin. "If we allow international law to be replaced by the law of the fist, under which the strong is always right . . . and is unlimited in the choice of methods to achieve his goals, then one principle of international law, the principle of the inviolability of the sovereignty of states, will be thrown into question," Putin said.