Europe backs U.S. strike

The New York Times and associated press

PARIS — European leaders quickly voiced support for the military operations begun Sunday by the United States and Britain against targets in Afghanistan, with France and Germany saying they could eventually take part as well.

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.

Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the "vast U.S. attacks" were "unacceptable," the Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in Baghdad called the attack "an act of aggression that runs contrary to international law."

However, 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.

In Russia, which used to put its air-defense system on alert whenever U.S. forces made significant moves, the Foreign Ministry instead issued a statement of support, saying that the "time had come for decisive action" against terrorism.

In France, President Jacques Chirac, looking somber, went on national television to announce the attacks. France has already pledged to open up its airspace, and French ships are providing logistical support in the Indian Ocean.

But Chirac indicated that French participation would go further than that. He said that military operations to "punish the guilty and destroy the infrastructure of the terrorist networks in Afghanistan" would take a long time, and added, "Our forces will take part in that."

In Germany, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said in a statement that his government supported the attacks "without reservation." Later, in a televised address to the nation, he added that Germany’s solidarity with the United States was "unlimited" and "did not exclude a military contribution if it is requested."

In Brussels, Belgium, the European Union expressed "full solidarity" with the United States and Britain.

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.

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