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World watches in horror as terror unfolds in New York

©Associated Press


LONDON -- Astonishing terrorist strikes in the United States quickly reached a global audience today, with many around the world watching live coverage as both World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Audiences were transfixed by the awful images from New York and Washington.

Key indexes sank on world stock markets and some European airlines canceled flights to the United States and recalled planes already in the air.

Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed his condolences to the American people over the terrorist attacks, calling them "terrible tragedies," the Kremlin press service said.

"This mass terrorism is the new evil in our world today," said Prime Minister Tony Blair, who canceled a speech at a trade union conference. "It is perpetrated by fanatics who are utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life, and we the democracies of this world are going to have to come together and fight it together."

President Jacques Chirac of France, in a nationally televised statement, called the attacks in the United States "monstrous" and expressed his solidarity with the American people.

"France has just learned of these monstrous attacks, there is no other word for it, that have hit America," Chirac said from Rennes, in the western region of Brittany.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and his top aides followed the events at his seaside office in Gaza City, gathered around a TV set.

"I send my condolences to the president, the government and the people for this terrible incident," said Arafat said. "We are completely shocked. It's unbelievable."

In Berlin, Foreign Ministry officials huddled in a crisis meeting.

Virtually all German TV channels switched to live coverage. "This is pure mass murder," one commentator said.

"My government condemns these terrorist attacks to the utmost," said German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder.

"Italy is at the side of the United States," Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi told Bush in a telegram. "The international community must respond together to this abhorrent act."

Czech president Vaclav Havel said in a statement that he was shocked by the attacks and was closely watching news from the United States.

Airlines including British Airways, Scandinavia's SAS and Belgium's Sabena canceled flights across the Atlantic and recalled planes that were already in the air.

In Puerto Rico, people scrambled for news of relatives and friends in New York, where an estimated 2 million Puerto Ricans live.

Groups gathered on the corners of cobble-stoned streets in the colonial city of San Juan, clinging to strangers in search of more details.

"Dios mio, have mercy!" exclaimed a whited-haired man, making the sign of the cross as he watched the second tower explode on TV.

In Thailand, Suranand Vejjajiva, a spokesman for the office of Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said they were watching the news in disbelief.

A spokesman for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said: "The president has been monitoring the events since an hour ago and she condemns what is obviously the worst terrorist attack on a leader of civilized society."

Broadcasters around the world broke into programming to show images of the disaster.

"It's incredible. I thought I was watching a Hollywood movie," said Hong Kong school teacher Doris Tang.

London's Evening Standard, already out of date when it hit the streets, carried a front-page photo of the burning World Trade Center and the headline "Planes Hit Skyscraper."

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