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Asia pledges cooperation in hunt for attackers

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Asian leaders have almost universally condemned Tuesday's terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, with several offering cooperation in the hunt for the culprits.

But opinion is divided on how the U.S. should respond.

Asia reacts

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Beijing  pledges to help U.S. to fight terrorism

Australian Prime Minister John Howard pledged Canberra's full support for any lethal response by U.S. forces.

"We can use words, but in the end deeds are what counts," Howard told Australian radio from Washington, where he had been stranded after civilian aircraft were grounded.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad also condemned the attack, but urged Washington not to seek revenge.

"Retaliation will lead to the deaths of many people and will be followed by more counter-strikes," he was quoted as saying by Malaysian state news agency Bernama.

In Afghanistan Wakeel Ahmed Mutawakel, the foreign minister of the ruling Taliban government, told the Arab television network Al Jazeera: "We denounce this terrorist attack, whoever is behind it."

However, Taliban officials have rejected suggestions that exiled Saudi dissident Osama bin Laden, who has been given asylum in Afghanistan, could be responsible.

He was on the FBI's 10 most wanted list before Tuesday's attacks over his alleged masterminding of the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa.

"It is premature to level allegations against a person who is not in a position to carry out such attacks," said Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador in Pakistan.

"It was a well-organized plan and Osama has no such facilities."


China and Japan have both issued statements expressing sympathy to the U.S. at what is expected to be a massive loss of life.

Like many countries they have also expressed concern for the safety of their own nationals, many of whom worked at offices in the demolished twin towers of the World Trade Center.

About 31 Japanese companies had offices in the buildings employing an unknown number of staff.

Also in the building were 14 Chinese-owned companies, the Foreign Trade Ministry in Beijing said.

Japanese leader Junichiro Koizumi said the attacks were "unforgivable" and told a hastily assembled emergency cabinet meeting that security forces would maintain the "utmost vigilance" in the coming days.

According to Reuters, Japanese intelligence authorities have joined forces with U.S. agents in an effort to identify those responsible.

They are believed to be investigating whether there is any link between the attacks and a warning issued by the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo last week of a possible terrorist attack.

China has also expressed its "deep shock" at the attacks with President Jiang Zemin conveying his sympathy to the American people in a personal note to President Bush.

However, some analysts and people on the streets of the Chinese capital have suggested that U.S. policies, particularly what they say is its self-styled role as global policeman, may have sparked the attack.

Security tightened

Authorities across Asia have ordered tightened security at airports and other key installations, as well as around embassies and diplomatic compounds -- particularly those connected to the U.S.

China has placed dozens extra of paramilitary police around the U.S. embassy and restricted access to the area, allowing in only diplomatic vehicles.

In South Korea, home to more than 30,000 U.S. troops, President Kim Dae-jung denounced the attacks as "a huge challenge to peace and safety of mankind."

He has ordered hundreds of extra police and specially trained SWAT teams into key areas of the capital, Seoul.

In Indonesia, the world's largest Muslim nation, new President Megawati Sukarnoputri wrote an open letter to President Bush expressing her sadness.

"This incident once again underlines the need for international cooperation to face terrorist activities worldwide," she said. "Indonesia is ready for such cooperation."

Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee has also offered cooperation with U.S. authorities in the hunt for those behind what he called a "heinous crime."

In a letter to President Bush he said he was "shocked, appalled and deeply saddened."

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