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Australia pledges help, support

Australians awoke to newspaper headlines telling of the horrifying events  

By CNN's Grant Holloway

SYDNEY, Australia (CNN) -- Australia has pledged to support any retaliatory actions the United States might take against the terrorist attacks.

Describing the attacks as "an act of bastardry", Prime Minister John Howard said Australia would stand by and support any retaliation the U.S. might properly undertake.

Howard, who is currently in Washington, has now cut short his mission to the U.S. and abandoned plans to address the U.S. Congress.

With all U.S. aircraft movements grounded it is unknown how and when the Prime Minister will return to Australia.

"It is a terrible day, a day of infamy," Howard told media. "We feel for our American friends."

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Minister for Defense Peter Reith said Australia had immediately offered all practical assistance "whatever that may be" to the U.S. "We are keen to do anything we can,'' he said.

The Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting to be held in Brisbane, Australia, early next month will still proceed as intended, Reith said.

Airport security

Security at Australian airports was immediately beefed up following news of the attacks with all lockers at Sydney Airport opened and the contents searched by sniffer dogs.

Security was also tightened around the U.S. embassy and other embassies in Canberra, as well as other U.S. properties and bases around Australia.

About six U.S. flights came into Australia Wednesday morning, all of which had departed before the tragedy unfolded.

Passengers on those flights were not informed of the attacks until about 10 minutes before they landed to help reduce panic.

New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, who is in Hong Kong en route to Rome for a six-day visit to Italy, Sweden and France, said she was appalled with the magnitude of the attacks.

"It's a horror story, it's the sort of thing the worst movie scenario wouldn't dream up," Clark told Reuters.

"We just sent our condolences to the President of the United States and the American people on what is a terrible, terrible tragedy."

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