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12/20/03 - EUROPE REACTS TO SADDAM’S CAPTURE - 2003-12-22

European and other leaders have welcomed the arrest of Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein as a milestone in the development of a stable Iraq.

“The Shadow of Saddam is finally lifted from the Iraqi people,” said British Prime Minister Tony Blair:

“Where his [Saddam’s] rule meant terror and division and brutality let his capture bring about unity, reconciliation, and peace between all the people in Iraq. Saddam is gone from power. He won’t be coming back. That, the Iraqi people now know, and it is they who will decide his fate.”

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder received the news of Saddam’s capture with “much happiness.” In a letter to President George W. Bush he wrote, “I congratulate you on this successful action. I hope that his arrest will support the efforts of the international community to rebuild and stabilize Iraq.”

The French and Russian governments also welcomed Saddam Hussein’s arrest. President Jacques Chirac called it “a major event that should strongly contribute to democracy and stability in Iraq.” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Yuri Fedotov said, “Only the Iraqi people may resolve the fate of their former leader.”

Leaders of the international coalition in Iraq were quick to hail the news. “The time has come for [Saddam] to pay for his crimes,” said Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi congratulated President Bush in a phone call. Polish Defense Minister Jersey Szmajdzinski also welcomed the arrest.

A statement by the European Union said the news of Saddam’s capture is “a crucial further step toward peace, stability, and democracy in Iraq and in the region.”

No one put it better than new prime minister of Canada, Paul Martin, who said that the arrest of Saddam Hussein is important to Iraq’s democratic development. “On behalf of all Canadians,” said Mr. Martin, “I want to congratulate the Iraqi people, the [Iraqi] Governing Council, and coalition forces on the capture of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. This welcome development, and ultimately Saddam Hussein being brought to justice, will enhance the prospects for early reconciliation while paving the way to allow Iraq to rejoin the community of nations.”