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French Version

Foreign journalists express viewpoint on Iraq

Chinese journalists think of US President George Bush as "the man who rides the red tiger," according to their traditional proverb.
"If Bush gets off," one Chinese journalist told The Star in Amman last week, "the tiger will raven him. He will have to keep riding the tiger until the end." The tiger in the Chinese proverb stands for the war on Iraq.

He is one of 900 reporters and cameramen who flocked to Jordan from all around the world on their way to Baghdad to cover the US war on Iraq expected to start anytime soon.

"If Bush decides not to go to war, he will lose his people’s trust. The Americans won’t let him off without punishing him," said the Chinese journalist, who works for a private newspaper in Beijing.

Over the past few weeks, Amman became the rendezvous for the world mass media, as newspapers, television and radio stations sent their representatives to cover the political developments in Iraq. Almost all of the foreign journalists have never visited Jordan before, but all agree it’s a worthwhile experience.

Peter Forey, photographer at the New York-based Bloomberg, calls the gathering of correspondents in Amman as "pretty extensive."

Nevzat Bahyan, deputy director general of Turkey’s Cihan News Agency, believes a war on Iraq will not be easy. "The US has made a lot of efforts to send the army and equipment and is spending money to have this war," Bahyan said, adding it is the first time for the US to come to war alone, something which could make the conflict last long.

Akli Ait Abdallah, reporter at Radio Canada, has just returned from Baghdad after six weeks. He spoke much of sadness and poverty. "The war in Iraq will be hard on people. It will destroy them and affect children very badly," he said.

Abdallah, an Algerian-Canadian, believes reporting the conflict in Iraq will be hard. "Journalists are free to report what they see. But it is no longer a normal situation in Baghdad. It is not easy to stay there watching the suffering and report on it," Abdallah explained.

Tony Cross, a journalist at the English Service of Radio France Internationale, arrived in Amman last week with a crew and are expecting to go to Baghdad soon.

"We talked to the people here and all are waiting for the war to happen," Cross told The Star. "I want to go to Baghdad to find out what the Iraqis would think of the West in view of this war."

Cross believes resentment is rife among Jordanians and Iraqis alike. "Once the war starts you will see a lot of problems in the region," he said. "How would the US form a government from the different Iraqi factions? How would the Americans keep the Kurds satisfied in the north? I can’t see national unity in that situation."

But Eric Seals, photographer/reporter at the US-based Detroit Free Press newspaper, yearns to visit Baghdad to cover the war there. He, however, may accept a temporary stay at Ruwaished near the Jordan-Iraq border, where the government is building camps for possible Iraqi refugees who are expected to cross the border once war starts.

"A war on Iraq is not a great thing," he said. "What Bush is doing doesn’t really matter to me, because my job is to tell exactly the story of what is going on both sides."

A reporter for Spanish Television in Amman feels she is standing at a threshold.

Her visit to Jordan is the first in 14 years, and she came across the consequences of war preparations. She has no intention of going to Baghdad but stay and cover the war from Jordan.

"I came here to report on the refugee crisis that will materialize," she said. Last week, she attended the popular demonstration in Shmeisani, where thousands of Jordanians took to the streets protesting the war. She thought the security measures were high-handed and a lot of people were unwilling to speak.

She understands the reasons behind the strict security measures, but hoped to see Jordanians act like their European counterparts. However, she agrees with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar’s decision to support the US in its war on Iraq.

Seals, however, sees in his coverage an opportunity to show American readers what is actually happening on the ground and let them make up their minds on their own. "My point of view comes through my pictures. Anyone can look to my photos and see what I think of war," he said.

Amman,03 24 2003
The Star
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