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Switzerland expresses shock over terrorist attacks in the US

Joseph Deiss and Moritz Leuenberger express their condolences to the US

(Keystone)

Switzerland has joined other nations in expressing shock and grief over the terrorist attacks in the United States. The US's NATO allies, after an emergency meeting in Brussels, said the US could count on its support in an "intensified" war against terrorism.

President Moritz Leuenberger said he was deeply shocked. "I cannot find the right words to describe this political and human catastrophe of such an apocalyptic scale. Fundamental achievements such as peace, liberal societies and tolerance have suffered a severe setback by this gigantic act of hatred."

"However, these values must be kept alive as hatred and terror are not the right way to solve political conflicts," he added.

Leuenberger has sent a telegram to president George W Bush expressing his condolences for the victims, their relatives and the American people.

A Swiss woman was among passengers on one of the hijacked planes which destroyed the World Trade Center, according to the Swiss Foreign Ministry. She had been bound from Boston to Los Angeles on a United Airlines flight.

According to spokeswoman Daniela Stoffel, 14 Swiss live in the affected area in Manhattan. Swiss authorities had contacted one of the 14, and were attempting to contact the others, following the disaster. If any Swiss were among the casualties, however, authorities noted that it could be weeks before a definitive list of victims is available.

The US's NATO allies held an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday to discuss the attacks, and later issued a declaration of support for the US.

It said the attacks "underscored the urgency of intensifying the battle against terrorism, a battle that NATO countries - indeed all civilised nations - must win".

Security stepped up

The American embassy in Bern was evacuated shortly after the attacks and security at other US institutions in Switzerland has been stepped up.

World leaders reacted with revulsion to Tuesday's devastating attacks, with Washington's allies demanding war on international terrorism.

Condemning the attacks as "deliberate acts of terrorism", United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan said: "Terrorism must be fought resolutely wherever it happens."

British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who stepped up security at all government buildings and defence installations, described mass terrorism as the "new evil in our world today".

"This is not a battle between the United States of America and terrorism, but between the free and democratic world against terrorism," he said.

Elsewhere Russian president Vladimir Putin pledged to make any relevant intelligence material available to the US government and called on the entire international community to unite in the struggle against terrorism.

Pope John Paul also condemned the multiple attacks in a telegram to the American president, describing it as an "unspeakable horror, which had thrust the nation into a dark and tragic moment."

There was even strong condemnation of the attacks from Libya's traditionally anti-American leader Moamar Gadhafi, Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, Iran and the Palestinian president, Yasser Arafat.

Gadhafi called the attacks horrifying and urged international Muslim aid groups to offer assistance to the US, "regardless of political considerations or differences".

Financial trading halted

New York financial markets suspended operations. The New York Stock Exchange on Wall Street has delayed the start of trading indefinitely, and other commodity and stock exchanges located in lower Manhattan also suspended business.

The US Federal Reserve Chairman, Alan Greenspan, was in Switzerland at the time of the attacks, attending a meeting of the Bank for International Settlements in Basel. He remains in Switzerland after his Swissair flight from Zurich to the United States was turned back.

Swissair and the Swiss Foreign Ministry have set up a hotline for those who want to obtain information on friends or relatives in the United States. The numbers are 01 253 48 95 for Swissair and 031 322 27 62 for the Foreign Ministry.

swissinfo with agencies

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