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World Leaders Condemn ‘New Evil’

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Shocked and terrified by the devastating attacks on American lives and landmarks, world leaders scrambled Tuesday to protect their own people from possible assault and vowed to eradicate the plague of terrorism that has shattered confidence in personal safety around the world.

Maximum-security alerts shut down intercontinental air travel and transformed Western embassies and military posts worldwide into fortresses. All U.S.-bound flights were canceled or diverted to other nations, causing massive disruption of global transportation, commerce and everyday life.

Dumbstruck by the death and destruction committed at the Pentagon--thought to have been among the world’s most invulnerable buildings--and the World Trade Center, political leaders condemned the attacks and labeled the perpetrators cowards.

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European Union External Affairs Commissioner Chris Patten called the assault “an act of war by madmen” and said it was the worst attack on the United States since the 1941 bombing of Pearl Harbor. “This is one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything,” he predicted.

George Robertson, secretary-general of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, said in Brussels that the attacks “constitute intolerable aggression against democracy and underline the need for the international community and the members of the alliance to unite their forces in fighting the scourge of terrorism.”

“This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today,” British Prime Minister Tony Blair warned. “It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life.”

After diplomats from NATO countries gathered in Brussels to draft strategies for a possible reaction, Blair declared in London: “This is not a battle between the United States and terrorism but between the free and democratic world and terrorism.” He vowed that Britain, like the U.S., “will not rest until this evil is driven from our world.”

Stock Exchanges, Other Key Buildings Evacuated

Russian authorities immediately put all military aircraft on combat alert and undertook unspecified “anti-terrorist measures,” the Interfax news agency reported. Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, in an emotional statement, expressed his condolences.

“On behalf of Russia, I am addressing the people of the U.S. I would like to say that we are with you. We fully and completely share and feel your pain.”

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U.S. embassies around the world were under intensive security. Embassy press offices failed to answer their phones after hours, but lights could be seen burning in windows beyond the armored patrols keeping unauthorized people blocks away. Classes were canceled for today at many American-run schools abroad. In Athens, U.S. Embassy personnel reportedly were wearing bulletproof vests.

High-profile buildings in London and Frankfurt, Germany, were evacuated amid concerns that the world’s financial centers might become the next targets. The Canary Wharf office complex, the London Stock Exchange and Lloyds were among those buildings shuttered in the British capital, while a bomb scare at the Frankfurt DAX stock exchange prompted police to empty and seal off the entire high-rise district of Europe’s financial nerve center overnight.

Police in all major European cities were placed on full alert and security was tightened at airports, including London’s Heathrow, the world’s largest.

Breathless, bewildered audiences around the world tuned in to 24-hour news networks, watching in horror as the already blazing twin towers of the World Trade Center exploded and collapsed before their eyes.

Internet users seeking the latest information on the attacks overwhelmed popular Web news sites, and telephone connections between foreign countries and the U.S. were snarled for hours after the disasters as friends and relatives sought word of loved ones.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, in a nationally televised address, called the attacks a “declaration of war against the civilized world.” Schroeder canceled a trip to Sweden planned for today and spent the night in emergency meetings with security and police officials to tighten public defenses.

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In Yugoslavia, President Vojislav Kostunica observed that the day of terrorism “shook the whole world and shows that in both good and evil, the world is truly a global village.” But in a nation where memories of NATO’s 1999 air campaign still feed a mood of victimization, some of his compatriots clearly felt the U.S. was getting what it deserved.

Dragan Tubic, a taxi driver in Belgrade, the capital, gave voice to the bitterness still felt by many, saying: “Finally they [Americans] will see, finally they will understand, what it means to be bombed. . . . This time they’ll learn they are not invincible.”

Both Japan and South Korea set up government command centers in case the events Tuesday proved the beginning of a global attack on U.S. military installations and allies. The U.S. embassies in Tokyo and Seoul last week issued security advisories citing unconfirmed reports of terrorist threats in both nations.

Early today, Japanese and South Korean companies scrambled to locate their overseas staff, given that the World Trade Center is a favorite with financial firms. At least 32 Japanese companies and several South Korean firms had offices in the complex, including Japan’s Dai-Ichi Kangyo Bank, Industrial Bank of Japan, Mizuho Bank and Asahi Bank, and South Korea’s Hyundai Securities, LG Securities and Dongwon Securities.

In Beijing, state-controlled Chinese television did not broadcast the news until more than three hours after the first attack. But satellite communications and the Internet brought the details to many across the world’s most populous country. Reactions differed, from disbelief to defiance.

“I always thought this kind of thing couldn’t happen to America. It’s so powerful, no one would dare,” said Song Danyang, an executive at a Chinese airline who visited the World Trade Center last year.

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But at a karaoke club in Shanghai, Stanley Chan noted: “America always acts as if the rest of the world might disappear but they would be the last one standing. Now they need to rethink their role in the world.”

Chinese President Jiang Zemin conveyed his sympathy to President Bush and the victims and expressed “grave concern for the safety of Chinese in the U.S. following the serious attacks.”

The attacks in New York and Washington prompted world leaders on foreign visits to return home from trips abroad or take extra precautions. Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar cut short a trip to the Baltic states to return to Madrid. French President Jacques Chirac interrupted a trip to his nation’s provinces, returning to Paris upon hearing the news.

As outrage changed to grief, flags were lowered at official buildings by sympathetic governments, and leaders marshaled their allies to weigh military and diplomatic responses. In Brussels, European Union officials called an emergency meeting for today for top security officials from the 15 member nations.

Mourners Hold Vigils, Lay Flowers at U.S. Sites

Outside the U.S. Embassy in Berlin, hundreds of Germans braved wind and rain to hold a candlelight vigil for the victims. In Oslo, Stockholm and Moscow, mourners laid flowers as close to U.S. sites as police would allow. Germany’s music TV channel VIVA suspended its entertainment programming “out of respect” for the victims.

Newspapers issued special early editions to convey the numbing details of the attacks and the psychological damage suffered by people everywhere who now may be fearful of air travel and landmark buildings.

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“Pearl Harbor in 2001,” Germany’s Die Welt newspaper proclaimed in today’s edition. And, in an ominous forecast, an editorial warned: “America will hit back hard. War is in sight.” For the first time in its history, Frankfurt’s Allgemeine Zeitung carried photos on its cover.

In Turkey--a NATO member that hosts a large U.S. military contingent enforcing a “no-fly” zone over northern Iraq--Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit warned that attacks committed with hijacked aircraft “could affect the entire world.”

Italian airport authorities canceled flights to the Middle East and Iran and recalled U.S.-bound aircraft. “Italy is in mourning,” President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi said on television.

The U.S. Navy base at Sigonella in Sicily and the NATO air base at Aviano, which includes the largest U.S. military aviation facility in Europe, switched to the highest of four levels of security.

Afghanistan’s Taliban Offers Condolences

Like Europe’s, Latin America’s condemnation of the attacks was swift and sharp. Mexican President Vicente Fox met with customs and transportation officials to coordinate special border precautions with U.S. authorities. In Panama, President Mireya Moscoso convened an emergency security council meeting and stepped up security for the capital’s international airport and the Panama Canal.

In capitals across the Arab world, leaders called emergency meetings to discuss the strikes against U.S. targets, draft statements of condolence and examine what, if any, intelligence they had on the matter.

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Many pointed out, however, that the West was quick--and wrong--when it immediately suspected Arab groups after the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, only to learn that it was perpetrated by an American.

Condolences and condemnation also came from the foreign minister of the Taliban militia, which rules Afghanistan and provides shelter for Osama bin Laden, a Saudi-born militant long regarded by U.S. officials as a major force behind international terrorism.

Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel told reporters in Kabul, the capital, that his country has been the victim of terrorism itself. Added the Taliban’s ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef: “We want to tell the American children that Afghanistan feels your pain.”

Times staff writers Marjorie Miller in London, Richard Boudreaux in Rome, Henry Chu in Beijing, Robyn Dixon in Moscow, Chris Kraul in Mexico City, T. Christian Miller in Panama City, Mark Magnier in Tokyo, Ching-Ching Ni in Shanghai, Sebastian Rotella in Paris, Alissa J. Rubin in Belgrade and special correspondent Ela Kasprzycka in Warsaw contributed to this report.

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