October 8: Analysis/Opinion
World reaction to US-led Afghan strikes
LONDON, Oct 8 (Reuters) - The U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan won backing from Western allies but reaction in the Muslim world on Monday ranged from silence to hostility.
Russia and Japan backed the strikes, which began on Sunday, while China offered an indirect and cautious endorsement. Iraq and Iran spoke out against the action.
Arab states friendly to the United States, like Saudi Arabia and Egypt, were conspicuous by their lack of comment as some ordinary Arabs protested against the strikes.
Following is an overview of international reaction so far:
EUROPEAN UNION - "The EU declares its full solidarity with the United States and its wholehearted support for the action that is being taken in self-defence and in conformity with the U.N. Charter and U.N. Security Council resolution 1386," the 15 EU member states said in a joint statement.
Their foreign ministers, meeting in Luxembourg, stressed the campaign was not an attack on Islam or the Afghan people. The EU said it had sent more than $280 million in aid to Afghanistan.
RUSSIA - President Vladimir Putin said "monstrous" attacks on the United States had only united the world against terror: "Such colossal losses cannot be ignored and cannot but lead to an appropriate response." The Russian Foreign Ministry said: "It is time for decisive action with this evil. Terrorists wherever they are -- in Afghanistan, Chechnya, Middle East or the Balkans -- should know that they will be brought to justice."
- TALIBAN - "We have decided to forcefully resist the American-British attacks," the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency quoted Mullah Amir Khan Muttaqi, a Taliban government spokesman, as saying after a cabinet meeting. The Taliban ambassador to Pakistan called the strikes "terrorist action."
- NORTHERN ALLIANCE - Anti-Taliban fighters on the front
north of Kabul burst into song on Sunday as orange flashes of anti-aircraft fire appeared over Kabul. "I am happy! The Taliban are our enemies, but America is on our side," said Almaz, a fighter from the opposition Northern Alliance at the front.
- EX-KING - In Rome, Afghanistan's former king blamed the Taliban for the destruction raining down on his country, but urged Washington to respect its territorial integrity.
FRANCE - President Jacques Chirac pledged French forces were preparing to join its U.S. and British allies. Defence Minister Alain Richard said there would be "no limitations" on how France might act, mentioning its special forces, air force and navy.
PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES - President Yasser Arafat's Palestinian Authority has yet to comment on the strikes. Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo disowned comments by Osama bin Laden in support of Palestinians against Israel: "It is true that there is oppression, terrorism, killing in Palestine committed daily but this doesn't justify or give a cover for anybody to kill or terrorise civilians in Washington and New York or any other place," he said.
PAKISTAN - Pakistan's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, told a news conference the attacks must be targeted and avoid collateral damage. Despite Pakistani links to the Taliban, Musharraf has rallied to Bush's campaign. But the strikes sparked violent Islamist protests across the country.
IRAN - "We condemn the attack on the country and the people of Afghanistan," Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told clerics in Tehran. "Death to America! Death to Israel!" the congregation chanted." No friend of the Taliban, Iran condemned the attacks on the United States but wants concerted U.N. action and is concerned at the risk of civilian casualties. Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi called the U.S. action "unacceptable."
EGYPT - Thousands of students protested, some calling the strikes a "war against Islam." Egypt has made no official comment on the attacks but President Hosni Mubarak had said previously he supported the "fight against terrorism."
JORDAN - This Arab ally of the United States said: "The Jordanian government reiterates its support to the international effort to combat terrorism while stressing importance of sparing the Afghan people human losses among innocent civilians.
"It should also include resolving issues and basic reasons that cause frustration in our region which means reaching a just solution to the Palestinian issue based on the resolutions of the international legitimacy," a government statement said.
CHINA - China condemned "any form" of terrorism but called for targeted strikes to avoid civilian casualties. "China opposes terrorism of any form, hoping that relevant military strikes on terrorism should be targeted at specific objectives, so as to avoid hurting innocent civilians," the Xinhua news agency quoted a Foreign Ministry spokesman as saying.
China wants the U.N. Security Council to be involved.
JAPAN - Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi offered strong support. "I told President Bush... we must cooperate with each other and fight against terrorism dauntlessly," he said.
ISRAEL - Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres called the U.S.-led attacks a "brave decision" by President Bush. "I think that all of us, first of all, are praying for the welfare of the American army and its allies," Peres said on Israeli television.
IRAQ - President Saddam Hussein said the strikes would destabilise the world. "America might increase the use of force and include other countries, according to its will and to settle scores," Saddam said in a statement. "Every true believer denounces this action, not only because it is perpetrated by America against a Muslim nation, but also because it is an aggression that contravenes international law."
TURKEY - In NATO's only mainly Muslim member, Turkey, Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit said: "Turkey supports the United States as a responsible ally and friend in its struggle against terrorism." Islamist newspapers condemned the strikes, however, saying the Muslim world faced a new Christian "crusade."
LEBANON - Lebanon, which condemned the September 11 attacks but wants a "war on terrorism" also to target Israel, said Americans were forcing their definition of terrorism on the world. "We have no doubt about America's capacity to destroy," Information Minister Ghazi al-Aridi told Reuters. "What is after Afghanistan?...Is it for America to define terrorism and its targets...according to its policies and interests?"
INDONESIA - "The government of Indonesia insists the operation stay limited...to avoid more casualties," said Foreign Minister Hassan Wirajuda. The world's biggest mainly Muslim country has said it would remain neutral in any U.S.-Taliban conflict. Small Muslim groups threatened Westerners.
MALAYSIA - "We will not take any action or support this action," Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told parliament.
"We see it as an act of terrorism," said Abdul Hadi Awang, the most influential leader of the Parti Islam se-Malaysia (PAS), the largest opposition party.
DUBAI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Many Arabs expressed anger at Sunday's U.S.-led military strikes on Afghanistan and some warned they would only provoke more attacks against Washington.
People across the Middle East expressed shock at the U.S.-led action, saying the United States had taken the law into its own hands, endangering the lives of impoverished Afghans.
U.S. assurances that the raids were aimed at the al-Qaeda organisation of Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, not at the Afghan people, appeared to have failed to convince many Arabs.
"It is haram (sinful in Islam) that the richest people in the world are killing the poorest people in the world," said Asma, a 32-year-old housewife in the Saudi capital Riyadh.
"I cannot believe the Americans struck those innocent people, risking the lives of innocent civilians again. May God destroy their houses," said Maha, a 47-year-old Egyptian housewife in Cairo.
Other ordinary Arabs said Washington should have tried harder for its own good to avoid military retaliation. They forecast that the strikes would bring new attacks on the United States.
"What are the Americans thinking? The Afghans will hit back and strike the heart of America. This conflict will spread and engulf the whole world," said Shaaban, an Egyptian taxi driver.
The strikes were a "stupid move" said Hassan Abu-Hassan, an Indian working in Bahrain. "There will be more trouble for sure between Muslims and America," he said.
U.S. and British forces struck at Afghanistan after its Taliban rulers failed to hand over Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, prime suspect in suicide hijack attacks on U.S. cities last month which left some 5,600 people dead or missing.
There was little immediate official reaction from governments across the Middle East, but Iraq, itself a frequent target for U.S. and British warplanes, called the U.S.-British action "treacherous aggression."
Neighbouring Iran said the strikes were "unacceptable" and would hurt innocent Afghans.
"I express my concern about this vast operation in Afghanistan and this attack which would result in the loss of life among civilians," Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said. "It is not acceptable."
The strikes were made "regardless of world public opinion, especially opinion in the Islamic world," he said.
"Are the Taliban alone responsible for the attacks against the United States? Is there proof of this? Then why did the Americans single out Afghanistan for punishment?" asked Manal, a 22-year-old female student at the American University in Cairo.
Arabs often criticise the United States for perceived pro-Israeli bias in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Bin Laden, speaking in a videotaped interview broadcast by Qatar's al-Jazeera television after the U.S. attacks began on Sunday night, said the United States would not live in peace until peace reigned in Palestine.
SHOULD USE SECURITY COUNCIL
In the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Hassan Youssef of the Islamist militant group Hamas said the U.S. strikes were "pure terrorism."
Customers at a roadside cafe in Manama, the Bahrain capital, watched the U.S.-British strikes on television. "We don't support terrorism, but we reject any attack against any Islamic state," said Radwan.
"Any attack should come through the Security Council. But America has decided alone to attack Muslims. This is totally rejected," he said.
"I don't support attacking innocent people. If you want to attack, they should attack the person involved and his followers, not the Afghan people, this is terrorism," added his friend Mohammed.
In Beirut, panicky and shocked residents repeated the
"It seems the terrorists have a million ways to answer," said Elias, a taxi driver.
"It is easy to start a war but it very difficult (for America) to know the results of this war," said Nizar Mansour of Hizbollah, the Shi'ite Muslim group whose guerrillas fought to drive Israeli forces from south Lebanon last year.
(Additional reporting by Caroline Drees in Cairo, Mariam Isa in Riyadh, Abbas Salman in Bahrain and Joe Logan in Beirut)
Powell Trip to Focus on Fortifying Resolve of Coalition Partners
Diplomacy: Bush administration strives to keep allies informed and on board as military action begins.
By ROBIN WRIGHT and NORMAN KEMPSTER
TIMES STAFF WRITERS
October 8 2001
WASHINGTON -- Secretary of State Colin L. Powell plans to visit India and Pakistan late this week, kicking off the post-bombing phase of U.S. diplomacy by talking with two nuclear-armed rivals who have joined the anti-terrorism alliance.
In other diplomatic efforts, President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and Powell conducted an intense round of telephone calls Sunday to explain to world leaders the reasons for the attack on Afghanistan, where terrorist leader Osama bin Laden makes his headquarters. State Department officials said the calls and Powell's visit are part of a coalition-maintenance effort that may prove more decisive in the war on terrorism than the military action.
"Coalition management means keeping in touch with people, getting the word out properly, taking advantage of any opportunities that might come up to build on the coalition and making sure the coalition remains safe and solid," a senior State Department official said.Several Leaders Get Advance Notice
Some allied, Arab and Central Asian governments were given advance word of the attacks, officials said; more than a dozen others were contacted as the bombs began to fall.
The White House said Bush telephoned Russian President Vladimir V. Putin, whose support carries enormous symbolic weight because of Russia's status as the world's No. 2 nuclear power. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon got a one-hour advance notice that the attacks were to begin. Powell called Mexican President Vicente Fox, Argentine President Fernando de la Rua, Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the emir of Bahrain Sheik Hamed ibn Isa Khalifa, Sultan Kaboos ibn Said of Oman and the leaders of five former Soviet republics: Georgia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan.
All U.S. embassies around the world were told to explain the reasons behind the military activity to local governments, whether coalition members or not.
But the senior State Department official said the U.S. diplomatic objective goes far beyond gaining international support for the bombing of Afghanistan.
"The military actions are important, but they're not the whole effort," the official said. "It's a broad effort--diplomatic, legal and financial steps are vital for the long term. We'll build on those steps as we continue military action."
It became clear Sunday that the military alliance is far narrower than the diplomatic coalition. The first wave of airstrikes was carried out by the United States and Britain, with minimal help from other countries.
The Pentagon said warplanes took off from a base in the United States, from the British-controlled Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and from aircraft carriers. Cruise missiles were fired by U.S. and British warships.
Bush said three NATO allies--Germany, France and Canada--along with Australia will provide military units for later phases of the campaign.
Bases in Pakistan and Uzbekistan--both of which share long borders with Afghanistan--were not used, according to Pentagon officials.
In his statement marking the start of military action, Bush described a very broad coalition. "More than 40 countries in the Middle East, Africa, Europe and across Asia have granted air transit or landing rights," he said. "Many more have shared intelligence. We are supported by the collective will of the world."
But much of the assistance comes from countries that have chosen to remain anonymous, probably because of concern that being tied too closely to the U.S. military strikes would provoke serious unrest at home. Asked for a list of the more than 40 countries cited by Bush, a senior administration official said, "We want to let the other countries announce themselves."
Pakistan in Delicate Spot
Nowhere is the situation more delicate than in Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country that has religious and ethnic ties to Afghanistan. Although President Pervez Musharraf said shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States that his government had no choice but to line up against terrorism, public opinion in Pakistan is clearly mixed.
On Sunday, the government issued a statement emphasizing Pakistan's preference for a peaceful diplomatic solution.
"We regret that diplomatic efforts to convince Taliban leadership to respond to the international demands did not succeed and now military action has been taken against the Taliban regime," the communique said. "Pakistan did whatever it could to convince the Taliban leadership of the gravity of the situation and take the right decisions in the interest of the Afghan people. . . . We also hope that the operations will end soon."
Before the Sept. 11 attacks, U.S. policy clearly favored democratic India over the military regime in Pakistan (the two countries have fought three wars and numerous skirmishes over the disputed territory of Kashmir). But Pakistan's geographical position on Afghanistan's southern border has made it one of the most important--and most problematic--of the countries in the counter-terrorism campaign.
State Department sources said Powell would not engage in any diplomatic efforts to settle the India-Pakistan conflict over Kashmir during his trip. Pakistan had requested a new U.S. initiative in the disputed Himalayan territory in exchange for its support for the war on terrorism.
Details of exactly when Powell will leave and how long he will stay in each country were not released.