- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 13, 2001

NATO yesterday cleared the way for a joint military response to Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, saying the 19-nation alliance is prepared to act together if it is proved that the attackers came from outside the United States.
Climaxing a day of negotiations and backroom diplomacy in Brussels, ministers to NATO's executive council voted unanimously to invoke for the first time ever the alliance's famous Article 5, which holds that an attack against any member "will be considered as directed against all the parties."
Secretary of State Colin L. Powell hailed the NATO vote, telling reporters it could prove highly useful in the event of an American military retaliation, whether against terrorist groups suspected of planning the attack or the governments who shelter them.
"We're building a strong coalition to go after these perpetrators, but more broadly, to go after terrorism wherever we find it in the world," Mr. Powell said.
The resolution read in part: "The United States' NATO allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism."
Mr. Powell said the vote "tees up" military coordination between the allies, citing overflight rights for U.S. military planes as one example of potential cooperation.
NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said the collective defense responsibilities would not be formally called upon until U.S. investigators determine who was behind the attack.
"The country attacked has to make the decisions. It has to be the one that asks for help," Mr. Robertson told reporters in Brussels after last night's vote.
The Brussels vote capped a day when the globe's most powerful institutions expressed sympathy and support for the U.S. victims, with the European Union, the U.N. Security Council and the Group of Eight industrial nations all voicing their outrage.
Several world leaders expressed outright support for an international military response to the attack, once the terrorists and their backers had been identified.
Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, asked in Tokyo yesterday if he supported retaliatory strikes by the United States, replied: "Of course we do."
"Japan supports the U.S. stance that the United States never yields to terrorism. We also have to show our firm stance," Mr. Koizumi said.
Russian officials expressed immediate support for a strong U.S. response, with many in Moscow drawing a parallel to Russia's own much-criticized campaign against rebels in Chechnya. Russian President Vladimir Putin has charged that Osama bin Laden, the fugitive Saudi financier many believe to be behind the latest U.S. attack, is also aiding the Islamic forces in Chechnya.
U.S. officials said yesterday Mr. Putin had sent a letter to Mr. Bush that appeared to offer advance approval of a U.S. retaliatory strike.
Mr. Powell also revealed that Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and his Russian counterpart were to meet soon as part of the joint U.S.-Russian working group on Afghanistan, where bin Laden is based.
Wolfgang Ischinger, Germany's ambassador to the United States, said he was struck by the "enormous outpouring" of sympathy for the United States around the globe, an outpouring that helped produce the "unprecedented" NATO resolution.
"I think there is an opportunity here to shape a grand coalition, encompassing all the world's powers, against this threat," Mr. Ischinger said. "There is no major country that is not on board."
Fueling anger around the globe was the fact that many of the apparent victims of the attack on New York's World Trade Center were foreign nationals or employees of foreign firms.
Speaking to reporters at 10 Downing Street yesterday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he feared that "significant numbers of [the victims] will be British."
"So in a very real and direct sense, the interests of our country are engaged," Mr. Blair said.
The government of Thailand leased three offices at the Manhattan complex, employing about 40 to 50 Thai nationals promoting trade, investment and tourism, according to Nipon, first secretary of the Thai Embassy in Washington, who uses only one name.
"We believe everybody has been accounted for," the diplomat said. "They managed to escape, but it only underscores the sense of sympathy our government has for America's situation."
Germany's Mr. Ischinger said yesterday that his embassy was still trying to determine how many German nationals were on the hijacked planes or working in the offices affected by yesterday's events.
"There's no clear picture yet," he said, "but we estimate there may be German casualties in the two digits."
China's Foreign Ministry, which denounced the attacks Tuesday, said that 14 Chinese firms had offices in the World Trade Center towers and that 30 Chinese were still unaccounted for late yesterday. Five Taiwanese banks were also tenants in the buildings, and Taiwanese officials said two Taiwanese workers were missing yesterday.
The French bank Credit Agricole had a large operation on the 92nd floor of one of the twin towers. Company officials said yesterday that some 81 employees were still unaccounted for.
Setting aside its usual ambivalence about the United States, the influential leftist French daily Le Monde wrote in an editorial yesterday: "In this tragic time, when words to express the shock we feel appear meaningless, the first thing that comes to mind is this: We are all Americans."

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