Anthony Shadid called attention to an important development in the political atmosphere in the Middle East [front page, Feb. 26]. I was in Cairo on Sept. 11, 2001, and I know firsthand of the sympathy of the "Arab street" to the pain that Americans felt after the attacks. Strangers walked up to me to express their sorrow about the brutal loss of so many innocent lives. At the same time, some of my Egyptian friends confided that they were not unhappy that the United States finally experienced suffering similar to that which American policies were inflicting on Palestinian (through its support of Israeli policies) and Iraqi civilians.

Since then, I have received significantly fewer expressions of sympathy from my Arab friends. Instead, I've heard "pained confusion" about the objectives of U.S. policies in the Middle East or anger that the United States is pressing to invade Iraq at the same time it is ignoring Palestinian deaths and nuclear threats from North Korea.

Mr. Shadid may be right in his observation that the anti-American sentiment that is growing in this environment may undercut mainstream Islamic groups and moderate leaders who are trying to contain a more radical younger guard, not just in Egypt but in other parts of the Arab world as well.

LEONARD B. ZUZA

Washington

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The Post raises questions about the Bush administration's plan to oversee the rebuilding of Iraq. To lessen the Arab perception that Americans have become neo-colonizers, the administration should announce a specific date -- no more than two years in the future -- for national elections in Iraq and the re-creation of a sovereign Iraqi state.

Similarly, it should announce that foreign troops would withdraw no later than one month thereafter. Holding elections would help assuage Arab fears of a prolonged U.S. occupation.

Moreover, the administration should seek a non-American to act as "supreme civil authority." No matter what his or her stature, many of our old Arab friends would view an American as viceroy of a U.S. colony.

DENNIS JONES

Vienna

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Anthony Shadid tried to make the point that the Egyptians are turning against the United States, but Egyptians never had any great love for this country. I read the al-Ahram newspaper for years and finally stopped because of its diatribes against the United States. The so-called intellectuals in the Arab world should be crawling into a hole for not speaking out against their own countries for allowing tyrants to control the daily events of their lives.

ROGER HOPKINS

Palm Desert, Calif.