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NATO allies pledge to stand with U.S.

©Associated Press

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 13, 2001

BRUSSELS -- In a strong show of support, Washington's NATO allies declared Wednesday that the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington can be considered an attack on the whole alliance if they were directed from abroad.

"An attack on one is an attack on all," NATO Secretary-General George Robertson said after the alliance's 19 ambassadors decided to invoke Article 5 of the NATO charter for the first time in the alliance's history.

The decision obliges America's allies to provide support for any military operation against those responsible if Tuesday's attacks were committed by foreigners, he said.

"The country that is attacked has got to make the decision and has got to be the one that asks for help," Robertson said. "They have not reached that judgment as to who did it and why they did it."

Shortly before the announcement, Secretary of State Colin Powell said invoking the principle would not necessarily mean using NATO force against terrorists and their protectors. It could include anything from opening up air space and providing intelligence to contributing troops and equipment.

Powell telephoned the leaders of the United Nations, NATO and the European Union on Wednesday in search of support for a coordinated response to the attacks on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon.

In a separate show of allied solidarity, the European Union pledged Wednesday to help U.S. authorities track down and "punish those responsible" for Tuesday's attacks.

At a special meeting, EU foreign ministers asked "all Europeans to observe three minutes of silence" on Friday at 6 a.m. EDT.

They declared Friday a "day of mourning" in all 15 EU nations because the attacks were "not only on the United States, but against humanity itself and the values of freedom we all share."

"There will be no safe haven for terrorists and their sponsors," the EU ministers said in a statement. "The Union will work closely with the United States and all partners to combat international terrorism."

NATO officials stressed that there was no discussion of military intervention at this point.

"At the moment this is an act of solidarity," Robertson said, adding that the declaration "in no way" binds the United States "against taking action on its own."

The notion of an attack against one ally being considered an attack against all dates to the alliance's founding in 1949. Originally intended to be applied in case of a Cold War attack, the principle "is no less valid" today, Robertson said.

In a statement, the NATO allies said "in the event of attacks ... each ally will assist (the United States) by taking such action as it deems necessary. Accordingly, the United States' NATO allies stand ready to provide the assistance that may be required as a consequence of these acts of barbarism."

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