LONDON (REUTERS) — World leaders reacted with revulsion to Tuesday’s devastating aircraft attacks on the United States and demanded war on international terrorism — but in the Middle East, some people flaunted their glee on the streets.
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the deeds were a “declaration of war against the civilized world.”
While the West and Russia urged unprecedented solidarity after an unprecedented catastrophe, Palestinians fired into the air and handed out sweets in the West Bank to celebrate, and Egyptians said maybe the Americans had got their just desserts.
“I am in a dream. I never believed that one day the United States would come to pay a price for its support to Israel,” said Mustafa, a 24-year-old gunman in Arab East Jerusalem.
No one took immediate responsibility for what a European Union leader equated with Pearl Harbor and what peaceful Norway called the worst terrorist attack in history.
Early U.S. speculation centered on Saudi-born guerrilla Osama bin Laden, but his Afghan allies said he was innocent.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and an Afghan Taliban envoy joined old U.S. foes Iran and Syria in condemnation.
Egypt, Israel and European leaders from Britain to Russia broke off normal business for crisis meetings. NATO ambassadors were holding an extraordinary meeting to discuss the attacks.
The European Union said it was the worst U.S. attack since Pearl Harbor 60 years ago and was “one of those few days in life that one can actually say will change everything.”
“This is an act of war by madmen,” EU External Relations Commissioner Chris Patten added in comments to Reuters.
EU foreign ministers were to hold an emergency meeting Wednesday in Brussels to discuss a joint response.
Flags were lowered at the office of Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi and on German state offices. A black flag flew on Austria’s parliament.
In a telegram, Russian President Vladimir Putin said, “Such an inhuman act must not go unpunished.”
President Jacques Chirac said France believed terrorism must be fought by all means. Prime Minister Tony Blair said Britain stood shoulder to shoulder with its U.S. friends.
Queen Elizabeth expressed “total shock.”
Ordinary Europeans also were horrified.
“It’s crazy — and if it’s the U.S. today it’ll be us tomorrow, you can bet,” said a stunned Parisian butcher.
Even those icy toward Washington condemned the violence.
The ambassador to Pakistan of Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders — who have given Bin Laden shelter — condemned the “terrorist” attacks, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said.
Pakistan, the main international backer of the Taliban, joined in the condemnation.
So did long-time U.S. political foe Cuba — along with the rest of Latin America.
In Gaza, Arafat said he abhorred the catastrophe.
“It’s unbelievable, unbelievable, unbelievable,” he said.
Iraq, though, was silent. And while most Middle Eastern leaders expressed their abhorrence, a chorus of cheers rose from the streets of the region that resent U.S. backing of Israel.
In East Jerusalem, several dozen Palestinian youths gathered to celebrate, honking out wedding tunes on car horns.
“We’re ecstatic. Let America have a taste of what we’ve tasted,” said Ali Mareh, a Lebanese resident in Beirut.
The Islamic militant group Hamas denied any connection.
Many ordinary Egyptians also said the United States deserved the carnage for its “bias” against Arabs.
Kenyans with raw memories of a 1998 U.S. embassy blast gave mixed reactions, offering sympathy but also urging Americans to understand why U.S. Middle East policy made them targets.
Pope John Paul condemned the attacks in a message to President Bush, calling them an “unspeakable horror” which had thrust the United States into a “dark and tragic moment.”
Israel urged the world to fight Islamic “terror.”
Britain, one of the closest U.S. allies, offered all the help at its disposal to bring the perpetrators to justice.
States from South Africa to Qatar and Russia joined Europe in calling for a war on terrorism and the EU said fighting this threat would now be mission number one, indefinitely.
“Pearl Harbor in 2001,” was how Germany’s Die Welt newspaper described the attacks. “America will hit back hard.
“War is in sight.”