Originally created 10/07/01

Allies quick to back U.S. action, some Muslims

The United States' European and Asian allies gave swift and solid support to the attack on Osama bin Laden and his backers Sunday, with France and Canada saying they had agreed to President Bush's request to contribute forces.

Arab governments largely kept silent in the hours after the U.S.-British action in Afghanistan. But Iran and Iraq voiced protest, and on the streets across the Islamic world, many denounced the missile attack and air raids as an act of war against Arabs and Muslims.

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad called the attack "an act of aggression that runs contrary to international law." Israel supported it as "the right and courageous decision."

In an address to the nation, Bush said Canada, Australia, Germany and France have "pledged forces as the operation unfolds," and numerous other countries have granted air transit or landing rights. Still more nations are providing intelligence, he said.

Bush telephoned several European leaders just before the attacks began, including French President Jacques Chirac.

Later, in a televised address to the French people, Chirac said: "Our forces will participate. At this stage French vessels are associated with this operation."

Until now France had offered airspace and naval logistical support. "In recent days," Chirac said, "the United States made new demands for military participation."

Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien confirmed that his country would meet Bush's request for a military contribution. In a message to the nation he said military units were being told to report for duty.

Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi put his country on heightened alert and promised that "Italy is by the side of the United States and all who are committed to the battle against terrorism."

Italy has offered troops, as well as use of its ports and airports.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder promised Bush his country's "unlimited solidarity."

"There is no alternative to this struggle, which we must win and will win," Schroeder told reporters.

The Netherlands, Greece, Spain, and the Scandinavian countries added their voices to what appeared to be a near-unanimous expression of support that spanned eastern and western Europe as well as Russia and Ukraine.

"Together with our allies we have to face this human plague which is terrorism," Polish President Aleksander Kwasniewski said in a statement.

"The fight will be long, risky and painful," he said. "Today's campaign is only the beginning. It will require a lot of effort and concessions, also on part of our society. We are ready for it."

In Asia, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi said "Our country strongly supports these actions to combat terrorism." President Kim Dae-jung of South Korea also voiced full support, as did Australia and new Zealand.

"It is a retaliation against the people who, according to the canons of any of the world's great religions, cannot call themselves people of God," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Small anti-war demonstrations were held in some European cities, and some governments expressed regret that military action couldn't be avoided.

Although those governments mentioned the need to spare civilian lives and get humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, the overall stress was on supporting Sunday's attack.

Romano Prodi, president of the 15-nation European Commission, said "all Europe stands steadfast with the United States and its coalition allies to pursue the fight against terrorism" and "against those who attack the very foundations of civilization."

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said on CNN: "We feel part and parcel of this campaign, and if we are asked (to help), everything will be considered seriously and positively."

Iran's Foreign Ministry said the "vast U.S. attacks" were "unacceptable," the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Iraqi TV broadcast a statement by Saddam saying: "Today, America has carried out an assault on ... the poorest among the peoples and countries of the world. We do not think that any of those who are true believers in God can but condemn this action."

Other Arab capitals didn't immediately comment, but in the streets across the Muslim world, many denounced the attack as an act of war against Arabs and Muslims, and said the United States had failed to prove Osama bin Laden's role in the Sept. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Moustafa Abdel Salam, a 28-year-old Cairo accountant, said "America is now fighting terrorism, when it is the one that has created terrorism from the beginning."

Rola al-Bosh, a 39-year-old woman watching the news on TV in a Damascus cafe, said she wanted to see proof against bin Laden. "And even if bin Laden is guilty, it's not fair that a whole people are being punished for the mistake of one man."

In Pakistan, the only country with diplomatic ties to Afghanistan's Taliban leadership, influential Muslims denounced the attacks as unwarranted and grounds for Islamic holy war.

"Americans have used their might to kill innocent people in Afghanistan instead of targeting training camps about which they were talking and making a hue and cry," said Amar Mehdi, spokesman for the militant Muslim group Harakat ul-Mujahedeen.

He condemned the strikes on the capital, Kabul, as "a brutal attack on innocent people."

About 100 people demonstrated outside British Prime Minister Tony Blair's office, chanting "welfare not warfare!" and "we don't want this war."

"We have had these wars in the past and they create more terrorism than they prevent," said 55-year-old Londoner Jamie Ritchie. "I would like to see a big change in the policies of what they call the international community."

About 100 far-right demonstrators gathered in central Berlin, chanting "USA international genocide central."

Anti-war protesters announced demonstrations would be held in Rome and Naples.

"We said that at the first winds of war we would descend," said one organizer, Francesco Caruso.


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