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U.S.: World Swift To Condemn Terrorist Attacks

World leaders were swift to condemn yesterday's series of terrorist attacks against prominent targets in the United States. Presidents and prime ministers around the world broke off their normal business to return to their capitals for crisis meetings. They expressed their revulsion and anger at the apparently well-organized attacks and expressed solidarity with the U.S. Leaders from some of the world's most notoriously militant groups and governments also condemned the attacks.

Prague, 12 September 2001 (RFE/RL) -- Palestinian, Islamic and Israeli leaders joined Europe and Russia in condemning the devastating attacks in the United States yesterday that caused as-yet-unknown casualties.

From every corner of the globe, leaders branded the explosions as horrendous, abominable, disgusting, monstrous and abhorrent.

The Pakistani ambassador for Afghanistan's ruling Taliban strongly condemned what he called "the ongoing terrorist attacks" in the U.S. and called the perpetrators "criminals." Abdul Salam Zaeef called for a thorough investigation and expressed his hope that those responsible will be brought to justice.

The Taliban has given shelter to Saudi militant Osama bin Laden, who is accused by the United States of masterminding previous attacks on U.S. targets, including the simultaneous bombings of two American embassies in Africa in 1988.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he was stunned by yesterday's dramatic events:

"First of all, I am offering my condolences, the condolences of the Palestinian people, to the American president [Bush], to his government and to the people for this terrible act. We are completely shocked. Completely shocked. Unbelievable."

In an interview with the German news agency DPA, a spokesman (Abdel Aziz Rantisi) for the radical Islamic Hamas group denied any involvement in the attacks. He said the Palestinians are only fighting Israel and not innocent civilians.

In Ramallah on the West Bank, the head of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, Kari Abdel Karim, rejected media reports that the group was involved in the explosions. In Damascus, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine also denied any connection with the U.S. explosions.

A spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon says Israel is ready to rush aid to the United States in light of what it called its own "bitter experience of terrorism."

Russian President Vladimir Putin held a crisis meeting with top security officials in Moscow to discuss Moscow's reaction to the events. In a telegram to U.S. President George W. Bush, Putin said he was "deeply shocked" at the events and expressed his deep sympathy to the American people for what he called "this terrorist act." He said Russians have felt the horror of terror themselves.

Russian airlines were ordered to suspend all flights to the U.S.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called for crisis talks with his top ministers. Blair said mass terrorism is the "new evil" in the world today. He said it is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life. Blair said:

"I am afraid we can only imagine the terror and the carnage there and the many, many innocent people that will have lost their lives. I know that you would want to join me in sending the deepest condolences to President Bush and the American people on behalf of the British people for these terrible events."

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said London is offering whatever help it can to the American government to help bring the perpetrators of what he called "these appalling acts of terrorism" to justice.

Buckingham Palace in London said Queen Elizabeth will send her own messages of condolence to U.S. President George W. Bush and the American people. Meanwhile, security was increased at London's three main airports and all flights to the U.S. were canceled.

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder ordered an emergency session of the country's Federal Security Council in response to the news. Schroeder's response was unequivocal:

"This is a declaration of war against the entire civilized world."

German Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer said he was "horrified" by yesterday's events before meeting with Schroeder for a crisis session. The German Foreign Ministry says it has set up a crisis task force in reaction to the explosions.

Dutch Prime Minister Wim Kok said the attacks demand an international fight against terrorism.

In Brussels, European Union foreign ministers were to hold an emergency meeting today to discuss a response to the attacks. EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten called it the worst attack on America since Pearl Harbor in 1941. He said -- in his words -- "it is one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything."

Belgian Prime Minister and current European Union President Guy Verhofstadt expressed the bloc's "deep shock and dismay" at the terrorist attacks. In a statement, Verhofstadt said the EU condemns "in the strongest possible terms" what it called "this type of cowardly attack on innocent civilians." He also stressed Europe's determination to combat terrorism with every means at its disposal.

European Commission President Romano Prodi said he is horrified and that Europeans stand together with the U.S. and who he called "all peace-loving peoples of the world" in condemning and resisting terrorism. EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said he was appalled by the events. He said no words can describe his feelings.

Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel says he is "shocked and horrified" at what he called these "despicable acts." He said acts of violence against the civilian population must never be tolerated. He said no country should allow itself to be intimidated and blackmailed.

In a live televised address to the nation French President Jacques Chirac described the events as "monstrous."

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson says the international community must "unite their forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism." Robertson said such acts constitute intolerable aggression against democracy.

At the Vatican, Pope John Paul condemned the attack and offered his comfort to the families of the victims.

In Prague, increased security has been ordered at U.S. buildings in the Czech capital. The U.S. embassy in Prague has not commented further on the situation.

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    Grant Podelco

    Grant Podelco is the editor in chief of RFE/RL's English-language website. He first joined RFE/RL in Prague in 1995 as a senior correspondent after working for many years as a writer and editor for daily newspapers in New York, Oregon, and Texas. He reported from Afghanistan in November 2002 to mark the one-year anniversary of the fall of the Taliban.