Iraqis expressed relief Monday at the agreement that has eased the crisis over U.N. weapons inspectors, but many on the streets of Baghdad still feared that America might attack.
With banner headlines in red ink and front-page pictures, Iraqi newspapers reported the deal signed Monday by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz.Many Iraqis were wary still of American intentions.
"I have learned not to trust America and Britain," said Rassim Taih, a 29-year-old graduate student at the downtown Alawi Hilla market.
Having heard international radio broadcasts, he noted that the United States, which has led the military buildup in the gulf, is yet to endorse the accord.
"I will never believe there is a deal until America says it approves it," said Taih.
The United States has amassed 25,000 forces in the Persian Gulf, the biggest military force in the region since the 1991 gulf war, which evicted Iraqi forces from Kuwait.
Taih noted that the buildup would have cost the United States millions of dollars. "The Americans may try to make up for its losses one way or another, maybe by striking Iraq," he said.
Unsure of the future, crowds have swamped the Alawi Hilla market to stock up on food, fuel, candles and other emergency items. Hassan Jumah Hilal, a shopkeeper, brought in extra supplies.
Hilal said he was not afraid to fight the United States but said he feared the sophistication of America's ship-fired missiles and aerial bombs.
"They (the Americans) fight us from thousands of kilometers away," he said. "This is the coward's way."
Akram Subhi, 38, a candy store owner, acknowledged that prices have gone up amid rising fears and high demand.
One of his customers, Amina Katham, a 34-year-old homemaker, appealed to him to heed the latest developments. "A deal is reached. America will not attack. You must bring prices down," she said.
Subhi countered: "Don't rush things. America may not approve it, and then we're back to square one."
Another shopper, Fadhil Aziz Ahmed, a 58-year-old farmer, said he thought the Americans might strike Iraq anyway. "They don't respect deals," Ahmed said.
Senior government officials were upbeat, however.
"Certainly, this deal is a positive step toward defusing the crisis," Saad Kassem Hamoudi, chairman of the international committee of Iraq's parliament, told the Associated Press.
"We hope America will not commit such criminal stupidity (as launching air strikes), because it will further isolate it from the international community," he added.