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U.S. Says Saddam Overthrow Good for Mideast Peace
55 minutes ago
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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States said on Thursday that the departure of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein (news - web sites) should improve the atmosphere for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.


Progress in those negotiations would also help repair the image of the United States in the Arab world, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz told a Senate committee.

"I am cautiously optimistic that the removal of Saddam Hussein as a major disturber of the peace and as a man who financed terrorism and rewarded suicide bombers will improve the atmosphere for negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians," he told the Senate Armed Services Committee (news - web sites).

Wolfowitz was a long-standing advocate of invading Iraq (news - web sites) and was associated with the school of thought that said overthrowing Saddam would improve Israel's security.

Arab analysts, on the other hand, say that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has a dynamic of its own and the Iraqi influence over Palestinians was minimal in recent years.

President Bush (news - web sites) has promised to pursue a Middle East settlement based on a peace plan known as the road map but many commentators are skeptical about his commitment.

Wolfowitz said that progress on the road map "is going to help us enormously in our overall posture in the Arab world, indeed in the Muslim world and the whole war on terrorism."

"It would particularly be important in how Arabs view us. There are negatives in what just happened although I think ultimately, hopefully, people will understand that this was the liberation of an Arab people," he added.

Many Arabs see the U.S. and British invasion of Iraq as a repetition of the European imperial ventures of the 19th and early 20th centuries. They say they do not believe the United States does not have material motives.

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