World leaders, including Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, yesterday condemned the Iraqi missile attack on Israel and appealed to Middle East nations to show restraint and foil Baghdad's attempt to turn the Persian Gulf War into an Arab-Israeli conflict.
Amid worries that any Israeli retaliation could cause a rupture between the Arab and non-Arab nations in the U.S.-led anti-Iraq coalition, Syria appeared to soften its opposition to any move by Israel to avenge Iraq's missile strike. Syria is the most hard-line Arab opponent of Israel in the coalition fighting Baghdad and one of the countries that alliance leaders had feared would react strongly to Israeli involvement in hostilities.
In related developments, the possibility of terrorist attacks and an expansion of hostilities in the Mideast arising from the attack on Israel, which decided to postpone immediate retaliation, prompted Pakistan, Italy, Britain and other countries to expel Iraqi diplomats or take other action against those seen as security threats.
Violent anti-war protests continued in countries around the world, many of them taking on strong anti-American tones. In Pakistan, as many as 10,000 demonstrators took to the streets to denounce the U.S.-led strikes on Iraq and occupied Kuwait. Moslem clerics in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi led thousands of people in chants of "Death to Israelis, Death to Americans."
Moslem fundamentalists throughout the Middle East and North Africa, including at least 100,000 in Algiers, marched to praise Iraq's attack on Israel and call it the beginning of a holy war against the Jewish state.
The information minister of Syria, which has contributed troops to the anti-Iraq coalition, said in Damascus that his country would fight alongside Baghdad against the Jewish state only if Israel initiated an attack against an Arab state. "If Israel attacked Jordan and it was the first to launch the attack, or if it attacked Iraq in the same way, Syria would stand with any Arab country subjected to aggression," Mohammed Salman said in remarks to a French television reporter.
His implication appeared to be that Damascus would tolerate a retaliatory strike against Iraq since Baghdad had initiated hostilities. Salman's remarks contrasted with previous Syrian statements that no Israel action would be countenanced.
In addition, Boutros Ghali, the foreign minister of Egypt, a key coalition partner which has signed a peace treaty with Israel, said on Radio Monte Carlo yesterday that Egypt would remain in the alliance even if Israel retaliates. Other Arab coalition partners, including Saudi Arabia, are also not expected to take action to oppose a move by Israel to avenge Iraq's attack.
The parliament of Jordan, which has sympathized with Iraq, sent a different message yesterday, branding the United States a "great Satan" set on dominating the Arab world. In a fiery statement, it said the United States is "fully responsible for every drop of blood that is shed in this battle" and called on all Arab and Islamic nations "to strike at American interests" and the interests of its coalition partners.
The Soviet Union, which has not had diplomatic relations with Israel since 1967 but has supported the anti-Iraq coalition, criticized the Iraqi attack.
"It is clear that the aim of this action is to involve Israel in the conflict and inflame the conflict in the Middle East," said a Soviet statement read at a news conference by Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Belonogov. It called on Israel not to retaliate or "move in a direction that will aggravate the situation further."
Gorbachev, said Belonogov, sent letters to Arab leaders urging them to show restraint, and the Foreign Ministry summoned Israeli Consul General Arieh Levin to receive a similar appeal. The government's Tass news agency said Gorbachev was trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflict and had discussed the gulf war with President Bush, French President Francois Mitterrand and German Chancellor Helmut Kohl.
Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney said he hoped that Israel would not become involved in hostilities as a result of the Iraqi missile strikes. He noted, however, that the restraint Israel had shown in not staging a preemptive attack against Iraq and not retaliating immediately for yesterday morning's missile salvos was "not eternal."
British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd called Iraq's attack on Israel attack a "reckless ploy to widen the conflict" and urged the Israelis to show restraint.
Pakistan accused Iraq's press attache in Islamabad of orchestrating protests and trying to recruit agents to be used against U.S. targets. Greece, meanwhile, ordered 23 Iraqi Embassy personnel to leave the country, and Belgium ordered seven of nine Iraqi diplomats in Brussels to leave for "security reasons."
Britain announced it would bar Iraqis from entering, would refuse to extend visas for those already there and would require resident Iraqis to register with police. It also said seven Palestinians would be deported, while Italy announced it had expelled seven Iraqis, ordered three others to leave and detained two people suspected of being Palestinians with terrorist links.
Correspondents Steve Coll in Islamabad and Glenn Frankel in London, and the Associated Press and Reuter contributed to this report.