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December 05, 2002

Anti-US anger grows among Arab moderates

Just don't call it a clash of civilizations.
BEIRUT - If the United States wants to gauge the extent of anti-American sentiment in Lebanon, it needs look no further than its embassy's efforts in the past few weeks to host iftars, the evening fast-breaking meal during the Muslim month of Ramadan. Just nine of 80 invitees attended a Monday-night iftar. Most observed a boycott of the event in protest of US Middle East policies.

As a possible US-led invasion of Iraq inches closer, and the bloodshed in the occupied Palestinian territories increases, anger toward America in this comparatively Western-friendly nation has grown more violent.

Several American fast-food restaurants have been bombed recently - three in one day last month. Then, two weeks ago, an American missionary was shot dead in her office in Sidon, the first killing of a US citizen on Lebanese soil since the end of Lebanon's 1975-1990 civil war. It is still unclear whether she was murdered because of her nationality or because of her alleged attempts to convert local Muslims.

In Lebanon, as in the rest of the Middle East, public expressions of opposition to Washington's Mideast policies had until recent months been confined mainly to organized and peaceful campaigns to boycott American goods.

The killing last month of a USAID official in Jordan and attacks on US troops based