Arabs begrudgingly welcomed the capture of Saddam Hussein on Sunday, their satisfaction that the dictator was behind bars tinged with annoyance that George W. Bush would get the credit.
But they also said the fight against U.S. occupation in Iraq was not yet over for Bush, who many Arabs believe has waged a campaign against them and other Muslims after the September 11 attacks.
"It is happy news, but we wish it were the Iraqi people who had captured him, not U.S. troops, because this will give Bush a boost in the upcoming election," Hussein Jafar, a salesman from Bahrain, said as news of Saddam's capture swept through Arab capitals.
U.S. troops captured Saddam, grubby and bearded, when he was dug out by troops from a narrow hiding hole during a raid on a farm near his hometown, Tikrit.
"I only wish it was not the Americans who got him. I don't like Saddam, but as an Arab I wouldn't like to see them [Americans] dragging him around Baghdad," said Abdul-Nasser, a student from Syria.
For others, the capture was disappointing news. Saddam may have brutally oppressed his people, but many in the Middle East saw him as the only Arab leader who stood up to the United States, which they said rode roughshod over the region.
"Of course it's bad news. To us, Saddam was a symbol of defiance to the U.S. plans in the region. And we support any person who stands in the face of the American dominance," said Azzam Hneidi, an Islamist member of Jordan's parliament.
No end to fighting
But other Arabs, some incredulous that Saddam was caught alive, said the U.S. success might prove fleeting because Iraqis were not fighting for Saddam but to rid the country of U.S. troops.
"The situation in Iraq will not change much. I don't think the resistance was linked to Saddam, and it will increase as was the case after the death of Udai and Qusai," said Saeed Shabet, a political analyst from Yemen, referring to Saddam's two sons.
In Gaza and the West Bank, where Palestinians are fighting against an Israeli occupation, some were in a somber mood that the United States, perceived as providing unswerving support for Israel, could claim victory.
"It's a black day in history. I am saying so not because Saddam is an Arab but because he is the only man who said 'no' to American injustice in the Middle East," said Fadiq Husam, 33, a taxi driver in the West Bank city of Ramallah.
Arab officials said Iraqis should decide on Saddam's fate and said they hoped it might speed up the handover of power.
"I hope that what has happened will lead to an acceleration of the process of entrusting the Iraqi people to govern their own affairs," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said.
An Arab League official said: "It is our belief that it is up to the Iraqi people to decide on the fate of Saddam Hussein."
In Kuwait, which was occupied by Iraq in 1990-1991, the reaction was one of joy. Some cars honked horns along a seaside road that had been lined with Iraqi army positions during the occupation. Others sent mobile phone messages to spread the news.
"We are so happy they got him. ... The people of Iraq have been brainwashed by the Saddam regime. They need another 20 years to realize that the Kuwaitis are not to blame for the Iraqis' plight," said Kuwaiti Mohammad al-Hudieb, who was cruising the Gulf seafront in his jeep.