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World Breathes A Sigh Of Relief

Leaders around the world greeted the U.N.-Iraq deal over weapons inspections with sighs of relief Monday, but hope mingled with suspicion in the minds of many in the Middle East.

With memories of Iraq's 1990 invasion still vivid, Kuwaitis praised the pact reached by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan although some said they felt the standoff was far from over.

"Knowing Saddam Hussein's aggressive nature, we doubt this will be the end of the story," said Mubarak al-Duwailah, a parliament member.

In Iran, however, there was just as much distrust of the Americans. Some there doubted the accord would stop U.S. bombers.

"The Americans are still looking for pretexts for military strikes against Iraq," said Hassan Rowhani, vice chairman of Iran's Supreme National Security Council.

Iraq called the agreement a "victory." Iraqi television celebrated the deal by broadcasting pictures and speeches of Saddam Hussein, as well as footage of old protests denouncing the United States.

State TV repeated performances of patriotic songs and dances throughout the day a departure from the dour programming of recent weeks.

"It was diplomacy wise, balanced United Nations, world diplomacy that enabled us to reach this agreement," said Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz, who signed the accord with Annan.

Key U.S. ally Israel worried the agreement might not go far enough and that the deal would not eliminate the Iraqi threat.

"Just because Saddam Hussein backed down at this moment does not mean he will not start up again in a few months," Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told reporters.

On the fringe of the Arab world, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi regretted a deal was struck, allowing U.N. inspectors inside Iraq's presidential palaces.

"I would have preferred to see Iraq destroyed and all Iraqis butchered and be saints," Gadhafi told a Saudi-owned television channel.

In Western capitals, the accord signed by Annan and Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was welcomed with guarded optimism.

The harshest critics of President Clinton's tough stance--Arab nations, Russia, China, and to a lesser extent, France--expressed the greatest relief.

In France, President Jacques Chirac felt that "a solution appears possible," his spokeswoman said.

Clinton spoke Monday with British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has been America's top ally in the conflict, but withheld immediate judgment.

"I hope today's agreement will prove to be the step forward that we had been looking for. But the proof is in the testing," Clinton said.

Blair was equally cautious, telling reporters, "You have always got to be careful when you are dealing with someone like Saddam Hussein."

Canada, another of 18 countries that promised to support any U.S.-led strike, said it was "cautiously optimistic."

In contrat, French Defense Minister Alain Richard turned his attention to the issue of lifting the U.N. sanctions against Iraq, saying that if "Iraq respects totally its engagements, then the sanctions will have lost their justification."

Russian President Boris Yeltsin claimed some credit for the deal, saying his diplomats helped avert a military showdown. "From the very beginning, we were for a diplomatic solution of the crisis," Yeltsin said.

Japan, which had asked the United States to refrain from military action against Iraq during the Winter Olympics in Nagano that ended Sunday, joined the rest of the world in waiting to see if the crisis was truly over.

"I want to feel hopeful but can't help still feeling anxiety," Japanese Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto was quoted as saying by Kyodo news agency.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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