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Russia joins NATO to oppose terrorism

Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 14, 2001


BRUSSELS -- President Bush's call for a global coalition against terrorism gained additional foreign support Thursday as Russia, in a rare joint statement with NATO, expressed its anger over the attacks in the United States and called for a worldwide effort to combat such acts.

After a special meeting here, the NATO-Russia Permanent Joint Council issued a statement saying: "While (NATO) allies and Russia have suffered from terrorist attacks against civilians, the horrific scale of the attacks of 11 September is without precedent in modern history."

The council, which oversees relations between the two former Cold War adversaries, said NATO and Russia would "intensify" its cooperation to fight the scourge of terrorism.

"NATO and Russia call on the entire international community to unite in the struggle against terrorism," the statement said.

Russia's support for the United States and the alliance as a whole has been unusually forthright, rooted in what Moscow perceives as a common cause: the fight against Islamic radicalism. Russia has portrayed the war in Chechnya as a struggle against Islamic fanatics and blamed the general instability on its southern borders on the same forces.

The Russian government has consistently asserted that the Islamic terrorism it is fighting has its roots in Afghanistan.

A senior NATO official said that Russia had offered the statement, without being asked by either NATO or American officials. The official said that Ukraine was likely to make a similar statement on Friday.

As shock seemed to give way to anger throughout Europe, some allies were forthright in supporting military action.

In Britain, where Home Secretary Jack Straw said that "hundreds" of British citizens had died in the attack on the World Trade Center, the government announced that its forces were already on the alert for possible retaliatory action.

President Jacques Chirac of France did not specifically mention military action, but in an interview on CNN he said that polls showed the 96 percent of the French were "in solidarity with the U.S.," something he had never seen before.

"France, I would like to repeat, will be totally supportive," he said. "We will show solidarity."

On Wednesday, the 19 members of NATO took the unprecedented step of invoking a mutual defense clause -- pledging assistance if the terror plot proves to have been masterminded from abroad.

But NATO denied reports that it had already drawn up a plan to invade Afghanistan, the refuge of Osama bin Laden, the exiled Saudi millionaire who is suspected of having planned the devastating attacks.

"The story is wrong," NATO said in a statement. "It is based on unfounded speculations."

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