CAIRO, Egypt (AP) – His enemies rejoiced, his defenders proclaimed him a martyr, and others looked ahead to the impact the Saturday execution of deposed Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would have on Iraq.
Kuwaitis and Iranians welcomed the death of the leader who led wars against each of their countries.
“This is the best Eid gift for humanity,” said Saad bin Tafla al-Ajmi, former information minister of Kuwait.
Al-Ajmi heads a state committee that is searching for 605 people who disappeared during Saddam’s seven-month occupation of Kuwait that began in 1990. He said the families of the missing were “ecstatic.”
“This is the fair punishment for the one who executed our sons without trials,” he said.
In Iran, which fought an eight-year war with Iraq that killed hundreds of thousands of people on both sides after Saddam invaded in 1980, most people thought he got what he deserved.
“Death was the least punishment for Saddam,” said Hasan Mohebi, a fruit vendor in Tehran. “He destroyed the lives of millions of people in this region.”
For university student Sareh Naghavi, Saddam’s death came too soon.
“He should have been made to answer why he invaded Iran and Kuwait and why he launched chemical attacks against Iranians and Iraqis,” she said.
While there was no official comment from Arab leaders, the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi announced a three-day official mourning period and canceled all celebrations for Eid al-Adha, the most important holiday on the Islamic calendar, which began Saturday for Sunni Muslims.
The Yemeni government made last-minute appeals, sending a letter to President Bush and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, asking that Saddam be spared.
Saddam’s defenders and members of his deposed regime mourned his execution and said he would be revered for his service to Iraq and the Arab world.
Najeeb al-Nauimi, a Qatari member of the deposed leader’s legal team, said “for Iraqis, he will be very well remembered. Like a martyr, he died for the sake of his country.”
Another of Saddam’s lawyers lashed out at the U.S., saying that the death penalty had been decided before Saddam’s trial had ended.
“The farce execution was announced by Bush seven months ago, when he said that Saddam will be executed before the end of the year,” said Issam Ghazzawi.
Mohammed al-Douri, who was Iraq’s ambassador to the United Nations in the run-up to the U.S.-led 2003 invasion, declared that “the Arab nation has lost a hero. So have all of those who are against Iran and Israel and for Arab unity.”
A leading member of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood, Jamil Abu-Bakr, warned the Bush administration that Saddam’s execution would have dire consequences.
“If Bush thought that he achieved victory with this move, he is wrong because the Iraqi resistance will be intensified and the hatred of America will increase in the region,” he said.
Al-Douri shares the view that the execution was a false victory.
“They think this is a victory, the execution of President Saddam,” he said. “They have no other victory to claim. There is no new Iraq, no new democracy, no example for the region.”