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Mubarak Warns Against Hanging Saddam

"We've witnessed leaders being assassinated, but never being judged in the Arab world," he said, adding that many Arabs also perceived the trial as taking place at the whim of the occupying U.S army.

Other analysts alluded to a peer solidarity among Arab rulers.

Dalal el-Bizri, a Lebanese sociologist and political columnist, noted the "vast authority that Arab leaders have, their endless stay in power, their cohesion."

Mubarak has been at the helm of the most populous Arab state since 1981. He has repeatedly warned against worsening violence in Iraq, and voiced concern about tensions spilling over to the rest of the region.

He and Saddam, who rose to power in 1979, rarely shared the same views during the decades they both spent in office, but in 1991 Mubarak offered the Iraqi leader a haven in exile to avert the Gulf War.

Saddam declined, and Egypt sided with the United States during the war. Mubarak also initially condemned the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, but blamed the offensive on what he described as Saddam's failure to cooperate with the international community.

El-Bizri said Arab populations tend to strongly associate with their presidents. "Their presence is felt everywhere. It causes a sick relationship between the people and their leaders," she said.

"No matter how despotic a leader is, he becomes a symbol of his country, or even synonymous with it," she said, explaining why many Iraqis and other Arabs were uncomfortable seeing an agitated Saddam arguing in the Iraqi court.

Some hoped the former president's lengthy prosecution and sentencing would pave the way for more accountability in the region.

"Saddam Hussein deserves to be punished for the crimes that he committed against all the Iraqi people," Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon's Druse community, told reporters. He said Syrian leaders also deserve punishment for allegedly killing former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri.

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© 2006 The Associated Press