Allies Quick to Back U.S. Action
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TOKYO (AP) _ U.S. allies around the world strongly supported the American-led attack on Afghanistan and Osama bin Laden’s terrorist network. But the Muslim world was deeply divided Monday, with some countries opposing the assault and others setting off protests by backing it.
Many allies of the United States and Britain praised Sunday night’s air strikes on military targets and bin Laden’s training camps in Afghanistan. The attacks came after the Taliban ignored U.S. demands to hand over bin Laden, the Saudi exile who is the prime suspect in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed thousands.
As security was stepped up at U.S. embassies in many countries and Americans were urged to stay off the streets, anti-U.S. protests were held across the Islamic world.
Many of the demonstrators denounced Sunday’s missile attacks and air raids on Afghanistan and its Taliban leadership as an act of war against Arabs and Muslims.
In Pakistan, where some religious leaders have called for an Islamic holy war, separate anti-U.S. protests by several thousand people touched off violence in the cities of Karachi, Quetta and Peshawar and the town of Landikotal. Police fired guns or tear gas at demonstrators who burned a movie theater, buses and tires. Several people were injured.
Many Pakistanis oppose their military government’s support for the U.S.-led military campaign against Afghanistan, Pakistan’s neighbor.
``It is terrorism against terrorism, and that will solve nothing,″ said Amin Shinwari, one of the protesters in Peshawar.
In Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, Taliban ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef called the attacks on Afghanistan indiscriminate terror against civilians, and claimed 20 people were killed, including women, children and the elderly. The Taliban said bin Laden survived the assault.
In Indonesia, the world’s most populous Muslim nation, 200 Islamic students rallied outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta, the capital, before marching on the city’s main U.N. office and burning a U.S. flag. No violence was reported, despite threats from some activists to attack U.S. interests.
``Holy war! Holy war! America is the great Satan. America is the real terrorist,″ the crowd chanted. The embassy was protected by rows of razor wire, a water cannon truck and hundreds of riot police with batons and guns.
Police were also deployed to control a small demonstration outside the home of U.S. Ambassador Robert Gelbard, who has been the target of recent death threats.
In the Philippines, 30 left-wing activists from the New Nationalist Alliance burned pictures of President Bush in a brief protest in front of the U.S. Embassy. One activist, dressed like Uncle Sam, burned a mock rocket symbolizing U.S. aggression.
In addition to the European Union, the U.S. supporters included China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, Russia, Pakistan, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Israel, Thailand, Hungary, Poland, Albania, Singapore and Croatia.
Canada, Australia, Italy and Germany agreed to Bush’s request to contribute forces, and French Defense Minister Alain Richard indicated Monday that French special forces or intelligence agents were already on the ground in Afghanistan. Others granted air transit or landing rights, or were providing intelligence to help with the U.S.-led global war against terrorism.
But in the Arab world, the reaction was much more complicated, ranging from support, to no comment, to strong opposition.
Turkey, the only NATO member with a predominantly Muslim population, gave a full endorsement, calling the United States its friend.
Saudi Arabia’s government, which supported U.S.-led forces during the Persian Gulf War, remained silent about the U.S.-British action in Afghanistan.
Iraqi President Saddam Hussein called the attack ``an act of aggression that runs contrary to international law.″ In Iran, another neighbor of Afghanistan, the Foreign Ministry said the ``vast U.S. attacks″ were ``unacceptable,″ the Iranian news agency IRNA reported.
In Malaysia, a mostly Muslim country in Southeast Asia, Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad criticized the strikes against Afghanistan and called for a world summit on terrorism.
``If they wanted to take action, they should pick the right people,″ Mahathir said of the U.S.-British forces. ``I would support them if they wanted to take terrorist action against Israel, because Israel has shot dead many Palestinians. For us, those are the terrorists.″
China, Indonesia and India backed the U.S.-led battle against terrorism while urging the attacking forces to avoid hurting innocent civilians.
Australia’s leader, John Howard, called the attacks ``retaliation against the people who, according to the canons of any of the world’s great religions, cannot call themselves people of God.″