September 11, 2001 Posted: 11:10 AM EDT (1510 GMT)
LONDON, England -- World leaders have reacted with revulsion to the aircraft attacks on the World Trade Center in New York and on the Pentagon in Washington. A sombre and visibly shaken British Prime Minister Tony Blair said the world's democracies must "fight this evil" perpetrated by suspected terrorists in the U.S..
Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed deep sympathy to the people of the U.S. "in connection with this terrorist act, this terrible tragedy," the Kremlin quoted spokesman Alexei Gromov as saying.
Gromov said Putin had been informed immediately of the attacks.
Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat condemned the attack, saying he "sent his condolences and those of the Palestinian people to Bush and the American people."
French President Jacques Chirac, in a live televised address, condemned the attacks as "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.
Prime Minister Lionel Jospin talked of his "sadness and horror."
Israeli Defence Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Israel's Army Radio it was "simply a tragedy."
"All I can say is I sympathise with the American people. We don't have any more details than what has been reported on CNN. It's simply a terrible thing."
A spokesman for the German foreign ministry said: "The foreign minister is dismayed and shocked by the reports from New York."
The interior ministry said it had set up a cross-ministerial crisis committee but it was not immediately clear what steps would be taken to boost internal security.
The country's financial market, the DAX index of 30 blue chip shares, plunged more than nine percent to its lowest level since mid-Oct 1998.
The British prime minister cancelled the speech he was due to give at a meeting of the Transport and General Workers' Union in Brighton, southern England.
The congress' president Bill Morris broke the news of the plane crashes to stunned delegates in the hall.
Blair described the plane attacks as the "most terrible and shocking events taking place in the United States of America."
He added: "I am afraid we can only imagine the terror and the carnage. Many, many innocent people will have lost their lives.
"I know you will join with me in sending our deepest condolences to President Bush and the people of the U.S."
He went on to describe mass terrorism as "the new evil in our world today."
Blair said these sort of attacks were "perpetrated by fanatics, utterly indifferent to the sanctity of human life."
He added that the world's democracies must come together to "fight this evil and eradicate it from the world."
Blair will chair a meeting of the Cabinet's emergency "Cobra" committee in No 10 this afternoon.
Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, Home Secretary David Blunkett and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon have been summoned to attend.
British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Britain would provide "whatever help we can" to the United States to catch the perpetrators of a series of apparent terrorist attacks.
Queen Elizabeth II's office said she would be sending a message of condolence to Bush and the American people. A UK aviation expert said terrorists were "always one step ahead" of those trying to protect society.
U.S. air chiefs would now have to completely rethink their security systems in the aftermath of the World Trade Centre tragedy, added Phil Butterworth-Hayes, the civil aviation editor with the Janes information group.
"When you get people determined to commit acts of terrorism, it is almost impossible to stop them," he told the UK's Press Association News.
He went on: "The whole civil aviation system works on trust. In America, security systems are the responsibility of the Federal Aviation Administration.
"The first thing the FAA are going to have to do is completely rethink some of the security systems they have in place at the moment."
Butterworth-Hayes added: "Aviation security tends to be retrospective. New measures are only put in place after something has happened.
"Aviation thought that it had sorted out the bombs-in-holds problem after Lockerbie but now there is a fresh problem to resolve. But it could be some time before new measures take effect."
He continued: "Terrorists are always one step ahead of the institutions that really need protection. Once you defeat one aspect of terrorism, you have to battle against something else."