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By Lachlan Carmichael
Agence France-Presse
30 April 2002

CAIRO, April 30 (AFP) - A campaign by the Arab masses to boycott US brand names is intensifying amid growing rage over Israel's invasion of Palestinian land and alleged US corporate donations to the Jewish state. It is especially hurting business at fast food franchises, but also sales of soft drinks, as well as a range of supermarket and pharmaceutical products in Egypt and other Arab countries, industry sources said.

The campaign is being waged on the television, in the newspapers, by e-mail and mobile telephone text messages as well as pamphlets on the streets and mosques of Cairo and other Arab capitals.

Lists are circulating with hundreds of brand names to be boycotted, including McDonald's and Burger King outlets, Tide and Ariel detergents, Pampers, Coca Cola and Pepsi, Marlboro cigarettes, and Heinz ketchup.

"Boycott a product, save a Muslim," reads a statement in a leaflet obtained in Cairo.

Leading the campaign are religious clerics, members of Arab parliaments and leaders of professional associations and unions, including journalists, artists, pharmacists, engineers, and many others. The campaign also includes calls to boycott Israeli goods and gives tips about how to identify Israeli products exported from third countries...

Sales at most of the 562 fast food restaurants in Egypt dropped 20 percent since Israel's invasion of the West Bank on March 29, on top of the five percent decline just after the intifada erupted on September 28, 2000, he said.

In the Saudi Arabian city of Jeddah, Ibrahim Mahrous, sales manager at the Ben Dawood supermarket, said Coca Cola was the worst hit of all US brands, down 60 percent, with Pepsi Cola next at 45 percent, and Procter and Gamble products such as Pampers diapers down by 30-35 percent.

In Bahrain, Abdulmunem al-Meer, general manager of the Al- Muntaza supermarket chain, the biggest in Bahrain with eight stores in the tiny kingdom, sees sales opportunities in boycotting US goods. "We are not selling American products anymore, we have cleared our shelves (of one million dollars in) US products and returned them to the importers," he told AFP when contacted by telephone from Cairo.

"When we did this, our customers increased in number, and people have been calling to express solidarity with al-Muntaza," he said.