NATO says it will support any military action by the United States against the perpetrators of Tuesday's terrorist attacks. The alliance said the attacks, if directed from abroad, constituted an attack against all 19 NATO member states.
The decision allows Washington to invoke Article 5 of the alliance's charter, which declares an "armed attack" on any member to be an attack on all. The clause, which has never been invoked, was designed to meet a challenge from the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
Announcing the decision, NATO's secretary general, George Robertson, said the alliance was fully behind the US, although he stressed that no military action had yet been decided on.
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, said invoking the clause did not necessarily mean that NATO forces would be deployed against the attackers. He added that NATO could provide support such as allowing US jets to use alliance airspace.
EU signals support
Following NATO's decision, European Union leaders underscored their support for the US. The German chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, said: "The attacks were... against the entire civilised world, against our values... We will not let these values be destroyed - in Europe, America or anywhere in the world."
No one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but there has been speculation that the Saudi militant, Osama bin Laden, was responsible. An aide of bin Laden's has reportedly denied that the Saudi had any involvement.
swissinfo with agencies