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Pained world condemns acts, but some cheer

Published Sep. 12, 2001|Updated Sep. 10, 2005

Governments around the world offered condolences to the United States after the terrorists attacks Tuesday, but thousands of Palestinians celebrated in the West Bank and in Lebanese refugee camps.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, Palestinians cheered and distributed candy to passers-by, and Iraqi television played a patriotic song that began "Down with America!" as it showed the World Trade Center towers collapsing.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat offered his sympathy to Americans and said he was horrified by the devastating attacks. "We are completely shocked. It's unbelievable," he said.

Leaders around the world, including most in the Middle East, offered messages of support.

Afghanistan's Taleban rulers condemned the attacks and rejected suggestions that suspected terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden, who has been given asylum in Afghanistan, could be behind them.

"It is premature to level allegations against a person who is not in a position to carry out such attacks," said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taleban ambassador in Pakistan. "It was a well-organized plan, and Osama has no such facilities."

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, whom the United States has accused of backing international terrorism, called the attacks "horrifying" and urged Muslim aid groups to offer help "regardless of political considerations or differences between America and the peoples of the world."

Key indexes sank on world stock markets, and many European and Asian airlines canceled flights to the United States and recalled planes already in the air.

Britain and Belgium banned commercial flights over their capitals, and Britain warned its citizens traveling in the United States to beware of possible further attacks. Israel closed its airspace to foreign flights and evacuated staff from diplomatic missions and Jewish institutions around the world.

In the West Bank town of Nablus, about 3,000 people poured into the streets shortly after the attacks began, chanting "God is Great" and handing out candy in a traditional gesture of celebration.

There were no reports of celebrations elsewhere in the West Bank and Gaza.

Sheik Ahmed Yassin, whose Islamic militant Hamas group has carried out a series of suicide bombings in Israel, said he was not interested in exporting such attacks to the United States.

"We are not ready to move our struggle outside the occupied Palestinian land. We are not prepared to open international fronts, however much we criticize the unfair American position," Yassin said in Gaza City.

In Ein el-Hilweh, Lebanon's largest refugee camp, where about 75,000 Palestinians live, revelers fired weapons in the air, witnesses said. Similar celebratory gunfire was heard at the Rashidiyeh camp near the southern city of Tyre.

Other reaction:

BRITAIN: Prime Minister Tony Blair asked citizens to join him "in sending the deepest condolences to President Bush and to the American people." He appealed for democracies to band together to fight mass terrorism, which he called "the new evil."

MEXICO: "Our support goes to all the victims and their families, victims of this act of terrorism," said Mexican President Vicente Fox. "We reiterate our total and strenuous rejection of terrorism."

RUSSIA: President Vladimir Putin said in a telegram to President Bush that he was "deeply shocked" and called for a coordinated international fight against terrorism. Putin met with his defense and security chiefs to discuss the attack, put troops on alert and ordered that security around government buildings be increased, according to reports.

PANAMA: President Mireya Moscoso went on national television to deny reports that U.S. military forces had taken control of the Panama Canal. She said the canal was operating normally, "although there is a higher level of vigilance than normal."

VATICAN: Pope John Paul II condemned the "unspeakable horror" of the attacks, saying he was praying for the victims and their families.

"Commending the victims to almighty God's mercy, I implore his strength upon all involved in rescue efforts and in caring for the survivors," John Paul wrote in a letter to Bush. "I beg God to sustain you and the American people in this hour of suffering and trial."

GERMANY: Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder wrote in a letter of condolence to Bush: "My government condemns these terrorist acts in the harshest terms. The German people stand at the side of the United States of America in these difficult hours."

CHINA: Beijing said it was "horrified," and President Jiang Zemin expressed "grave concern for the safety of Chinese in the U.S."

EGYPT: President Hosni Mubarak called the attacks "horrible and unimaginable."

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