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Attacks spark global red alert

Argentine police stand guard outside the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.
Argentine police stand guard outside the U.S. embassy in Buenos Aires on Tuesday.  

LONDON, England -- As all U.S. forces throughout the world were put on the highest state of alert following the attacks in New York and Washington, other nations followed suit.

European Union foreign ministers said they would hold emergency talks on Wednesday while NATO ambassadors were holding an extraordinary meeting on Tuesday night to discuss the wave of attacks.

NATO Secretary-General George Robertson urged all non-essential personnel to leave the alliance's headquarters in Brussels and said they should not report to work on Wednesday.

United Nations aid workers prepared to leave Afghanistan on Wednesday, U.N. sources told CNN.

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In addition, smaller aid groups working for non-governmental organisations began to leave their compounds in the capital, including 14 German groups over the next couple of days.

But the focus of the many security measures introduced across the international community centred on airports and embassies, with many international airlines scrambling to divert or cancel flights to the United States.

The cancellations and diversions caused confusion and congestion at many European airports, where airlines ordered flights bound for the United States to do U-turns or find alternate landing points outside America.

Some airlines reversed course only after being denied permission to land by the Federal Aviation Administration, which took the unprecedented step of ordering the complete shut down of U.S. air space.

The grounding affects 36,000 to 40,000 flights that take off in the United States daily, as well as general aviation flights.

"The earliest the national groundstop will be lifted is noon tomorrow. And that's at the very earliest," FAA spokesman Les Dorr told CNN on Tuesday.

Similar air space closures were implemented by Canada, Britain and Belgium, where commercial flights over their capitals of London and Brussels were banned.

British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "No flights will take off from the UK for which we cannot apply the highest standards of security for aircrew and passengers.

A swedish police officer stands guard outside the embassy in Stockholm.
A swedish police officer stands guard outside the embassy in Stockholm.  

"Private flights have been stopped except where specifically authorised."

In Canada, Prime Minister Jean Chretien said: "Everyone has increased the level of security in Canada we have increased security adequately.

Chretien said the country's airports had been shut along with all the nation's consulates in the United States.

In France, armed troops were deployed at airports and metro stations. Border controls have increased.

The U.S. Embassy in Paris was closed and will be shut again on Wednesday. The embassy is warning Americans in France to be careful about speaking English on the streets.

In Germany, the Interior Ministry said it had set up a cross-ministerial crisis committee, while security was increased at government and U.S. and Israeli installations across the country.

It also said flags on all public buildings in Germany would fly at half mast for two days.

The regional government in the state of Hesse recommended the main skyscrapers in Frankfurt, Germany's financial capital and home to the European Central Bank, close on Wednesday.

Despite that, Frankfurt's equivalent to the World Trade Center, the Messeturm building, was open only to be evacuated early on Wednesday after police received a bomb alert.

Security officers cleared the building at 9 a.m. (0700 GMT) following the anonymous call which said the device would explode at 9.20 a.m.. The all-clear was given 15 minutes later.

About 4,000 employees work in the building, mainly for investment banks.

The British Foreign Office told CNN that it had advised British nationals across the world to stay at home and to avoid crowded places where they could draw attention to themselves.

The ECB said it would take a decision on Wednesday on whether staff should return to its headquarters.

The new Jewish museum in Berlin cancelled its public opening set for Tuesday night.

The U.S. embassy in Rome sent staff home early, while Spain threw cordons around the U.S. and Israeli embassies and the Palestinian representation.

Romanian special forces cordoned off the U.S. embassy in Bucharest, which shut down for two days last week after unspecified threats to security, as well as the Israeli embassy.

In the Kenyan capital Nairobi, scene of a massive bomb attack on the U.S. embassy in 1998, a spokesman for the ambassador said he was awaiting instructions from Washington.

Kenyan police spokesman Peter Kimanthi said security forces would tighten security in the wake of the attack.

Greece, criticised by Washington over its anti-terrorism record, ordered a security alert at the U.S. embassy in Athens and other potential U.S. targets, including schools.

Spain has stepped up security at its airports, where normal operations were reported on Wednesday. U.S.-bound flights from Spain were returned late on Tuesday or a few were diverted to other airports.

Israel closed its air space to foreign planes, closed land crossings and evacuated staff from diplomatic missions and Jewish institutions around the world.

Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres said Israel has declared a day of mourning Wednesday. "We are with America, we feel like America," Peres told The Associated Press.

In Mexico, officials at Aeromexico and Mexicana airlines said all flights from Mexico to the United States, and all flights that cross U.S. airspace, had been cancelled.

World Bank President James Wolfensohn told CNN it will be some days before he makes a decision about ccancelingor postponing the IMF/World Bank annual meetings, scheduled for September 29-30.

He said dealing with the tragedy was where the focus should be for now.

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