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03ABUJA300 2003-02-13 10:38:00 UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY Embassy Abuja
Cable title:  

NIGERIA: REACTION TO SECRETARY'S SPEECH

Tags:   PREL PARM NI IZ UNSC 
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1. (U) Reaction to the Secretary's speech on Iraqi
violations
has been muted. Local media covered the event with
straightforward accounts of the Secretary's presentation.
Until
today (February 10), Embassy has seen no official comments
from
the GON and little discussion of the speech's merits in the
media. "This Day," an influential daily that late last year
ran
into trouble with many Muslims over an ill-advised reference
to
the Prophet Mohammed, courageously editorialized what it
hoped
Muslims would want to hear. While reporting snippets of the
Secretary's speech, the editors countered the Secretary's

SIPDIS
call
for a firm stand by the UN: "We believe that on the
contrary,
it is America that is by her arrogant posture, rendering the
United Nations irrelevant." The editors went on to question
U.S. motivations and to contend that the U.S. was not
"showing
the same zeal in resolving the long-drawn Israeli-Palestinian
conflict in favor of peace and justice." Sentiment against a
U.S. attack, especially one without the cover of a further
Security Council Resolution, has been growing slowly but
steadily in Nigeria for the past two months.




2. (SBU) Many of the Embassy's interlocutors have given
kudos
to the Secretary for the presentation, some commenting that
"the
same message from any other source would not have been
credible." Even so, the overall sentiment appears to be that:
a) there is not enough reason to unilaterally attack Iraq,
b) the U.S. appears to be using different standards to
develop
and implement policy toward, respectively, Iraq, the DPRK and
Israel, and
c) it seems that President Bush has decided to wage war no
matter what Iraq does (or does not).




3. (SBU) On the Nigerian street, tensions continue to rise
in
anticipation of the expected U.S.-led was on Iraq. Many of
Nigeria's approximately 60 million Muslims confront serious
economic difficulties and perceive no near-term prospect for
improvement. Many also view Nigeria's incumbent President as
biased toward mostly-Christian southern Nigeria and fear that
he
will be re-elected despite their antipathy. Objecting to the
likelihood of a "U.S.-led war on our fellow Muslims" offers
them
a sense of purpose and belonging. Thus far, these objections
have taken the form of a street demonstration only once, and
then in Ibadan (rather than Abuja or Lagos). There have been
reports of efforts to organize additional demonstrations, but
a
heavy GON security presence appears to date to have
discouraged
those contemplating action. In the weeks ahead, ongoing
efforts
to disarm Iraq will combine with electoral passions to
increase
chances for demonstrations, peaceful and otherwise.
JETER