World Reacts With Revulsion to Aircraft Attacks on U.S.
By William Drozdiak
BRUSSELS, Sept. 11 Around the world, presidents and ordinary people alike reacted with horror and revulsion today to the aircraft attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon. People sat transfixed at TV sets as the images flowed in from New York; foreign governments tightened security and began offering help to find the perpetrators.
"We can only imagine the terror and carnage there and the many, many innocent people who have lost their lives," said Tony Blair, prime minister of Britain, where tall buildings were being evacuated. "This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today. It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of life."
Here and there, people celebrated. In the town of Nablus in the West Bank, hundreds of Palestinians turned out to exult, seeing the attack as justified for U.S. support of Israel. Some fired rifles into the air, others offered candy to passers-by, a traditional gesture of celebration.
But the overwhelming reaction was sympathy and stepped-up security. Air traffic authorities in Europe suspended all flights to the United States as foreign governments convened emergency meetings to discuss security measures against further terrorist actions. Russia's air defense system was put on "permanent alert."
Israel announced it would send anti-terrorism experts to the United States to take part in the investigation.
In Brussels, NATO told non-essential staff to leave its Brussels headquarters, a NATO spokesman said.
In Japan, both American and Japanese forces stepped up security around the U.S. military bases where about 48,000 servicemen are stationed. U.S. Marines went on maximum alert.
Dozens of Japanese companies with offices in the World Trade Center scrambled for information on the safety of their employees.
U.S. embassies and consulates in Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay were evacuated and closed. One high-ranking U.S. diplomat in South America said intensive sweeps would be undertaken and new precautionary measures would be made in cooperation with local authorities to ensure security before the sites would reopen.
In Brazil, Latin America's largest nation, an emergency "maximum security" alert was put into effect at major airports and all flights en route to the United States were ordered to return. Scheduled flights to the United States were temporarily suspended. Brazilian authorities stationed battalions of security forces around the U.S. and Israeli embassies.
The region's largest stock market, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, was closed after an 8 percent drop. Phone companies put out advisories not to call the United States, particularly New York, because of overburdened phone lines. Brazil's President Fernando Henrique Cardoso immediately issued a statement condemning the attacks in the United States.
Meanwhile, in cities throughout Latin America, shocked and stunned populations some viewed crying in front of television sets in offices and appliance shop windows were glued to their TV sets with news programs broadcasting virtually nothing else.
Israel's defense minister, Binyamin Ben-Elizer, called it "a tragedy, simply a terrible thing." In Moscow, Russia's President Vladimir Putin expressed sorrow and outrage over what he called "a terrorist act, this terrible tragedy" and said that "the entire international community should unite in the struggle against terrorism."
In the West Bank, celebrations erupted. "I feel I am in a dream. I never believed that one day the United States would come to pay a price for its support to Israel," said Mustafa, a 24-year-old Palestinian gunman, according to the Reuter news agency.
Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, joining a chorus of world leaders. "We completely condemn this serious operation," Arafat said. "We were completely shocked. It's unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable."
Britain's Blair cut short a key policy speech to union leaders at the seaside resort of Brighton and returned immediately to London to monitor what he described as "the most terrible, shocking events" taking place in the United States.
Mexican President Vicente Fox said: "Today the whole world and here in Mexico began the day with this high-impact news, this criminal act of terrorism, which we reject along with all forms of violence. We want from here to express our solidarity and our support to all the victims of these acts of terrorism and their family members. We reiterate our complete, emphatic rejection of all forms of violence and all forms of terrorism."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder convened an urgent meeting of the country's national security council to discuss recent intelligence reports of potential terror plots and how to protect possible targets. Police guards were bolstered around American buildings in the German capital of Berlin.
French President Jacques Chirac expressed outrage about the "monstrous attacks" against the United States and broke off a tour of the Brittany region in western France to return to Paris. "In these terrible circumstances, all French people stand by the American people. We express our friendship and solidarity in this tragedy," he said.
In Brussels, the European Union's commissioner for external affairs, Chris Patten, said the EU's 350 million citizens stood behind the United States in offering condolences to the victims and their families. "We are all watching events with absolute horror," Patten said. "Our prayers and deepest sympathies go out to our friends in the United States."
In Colombia, the government of President Andres Pastrana, struggling with its own decades-old civil war, "condemn[ed] and reject[ed] the cowardly and villainous terrorist attacks committed today against the American people."
Pastrana was awaiting the first visit by U.S. Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, scheduled to arrived in Bogota later today for a two-day visit. That trip was canceled as Powell left a meeting of the Organization of American States he was attending in Lima for Washington.
In Moscow, U.S. Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith had just finished a joint briefing with Russian Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky about their latest round of talks on the U.S.-proposed missile defense system when he found out about the World Trade Center attack.
Minutes earlier, he had been extolling the United States proposal to create what he called a "new" post-Cold War security framework that would "make both our countries more secure."
After listening to President Bush's speech on a cell phone, Feith began a news conference with American reporters saying that although the proposed missile defense system would not necessarily protect against "all the types of threats that the U.S. is facing," it still "makes a good deal of sense" to concentrate on it.
Another member of the U.S. delegation, J.D. Crouch, argued that criticizing missile defense because it could not have prevented today's attacks was like saying that because the front door has been broken into, "we might as well leave the back door open as well."