U.S. Attacks Draw World Condolences

N E W   Y O R K, Sept. 11, 2001 -- As Americans reeled from the apparent terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington, nearly the entire world reacted with a mix of sympathy and outrage, and considered their own protective measures.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair called the attacks "terrible, shocking" and Russian President Vladimir Putin told Russian news agencies that America had been struck by "terrible tragedies."

"We can only imagine the terror and carnage there and the many, many innocent people who have lost their lives," Blair said.

"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," he added. The British Embassy in Washington sent nonessential personnel home.

Putin was said to be monitoring events on television and calling his senior staff to the Kremlin to discuss the attacks.

Both countries suspended all flights to the United States.

Security was tightened at London's three main airports: Gatwick, Stansted and Heathrow, the world's busiest international airport, but they remained open.

In the Mideast

As suspicions in the attacks fell on Islamic terror groups, some Middle East leaders expressed shock, disbelief and even sympathy — but others rejoiced.

Iraqi state television called the attacks the "operation of the century," deserved by the United States because of its "crimes against humanity."

In a commentary, it said: "The American cowboy is reaping the fruits of his crimes against humanity. It is a black day in the history of America, which is tasting the bitter defeat of its crimes and disregard for people's will to lead a free, decent life."

Meanwhile, in Palestinian refugee camps across the Middle East, militants fired guns and cheered in celebration.

The Palestinians comprise one of the world's longest-standing refugee populations, having survived four decades of exile. They are embittered over what they perceive as American support for Israel, especially following a nearly year-old uprising in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

However, Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik al-Hariri was more diplomatic, condemning the attack in a statement that said "these tragic actions contradict all human and religious values."

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat also called the incidents "terrible" and sent his condolences to President Bush, the government and the American people.

"We are completely shocked. It's unbelievable," he said. Arafat also pledged to help track down the attackers, after being asked at a news conference if he would do so.

"No doubt, if they ask me. ... I am ready to accept," he said.

King Abdullah of Jordan, a close ally of the United States, condemned today's "terrorist actions" and said his government "presents its warmest condolences to the American people."

Across the Borders

America's immediate neighbors, Mexico and Canada, reacted with concern.

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien called the attacks "cowardly and depraved" and "an offense against the freedom and rights of all civilized nations."

Flights from Canada to the United States were canceled. Some border posts were briefly closed for a few hours after the attacks but quickly reopened. The Canadian Embassy in Washington was also open for business, but with heightened security.

In Mexico, President Vicente Fox, who just last week made a state visit to the United States, said "we express our solidarity with the victims and relatives of victims of these acts of terrorism," and stepped security up around the American Embassy in Mexico City.

The Mexican Embassy, just three blocks away from the White House, was told by the U.S. Secret Service to close and send all personnel home.

From France to the Philippines

Reaction came from all corners of the world.

In a nationally televised statement, President Jacques Chirac of France called the attacks "monstrous" and expressed his solidarity with the American people.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said, "My government condemns these terrorist attacks to the utmost."

Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi sent Bush a telegram, saying "Italy is at the side of the United States."

Pope John Paul II condemned the attacks, said he prayed for the victims' souls and offered his comfort to their families.

Leaders as far away as Thailand and the Philippines expressed disbelief and condemned the attack.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard said he was "horrified" by today's events and also offered his condolences.

Howard, who was visiting Washington, called today's events "dreadful, just appalling, awful."

He had been due to visit New York on Wednesday, but cut short his trip in consideration of the attacks. He said he would return to Australia as soon as possible.