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Asia voices its support

By Andrew Demaria
CNN

HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Leaders from Japan, China, India, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Taiwan have expressed their support for the U.S.-led strikes against targets in Afghanistan.

While most Asian nations were swift to approve the U.S.-led strikes against targets in Afghanistan, there was fear of a backlash in some countries, particularly Indonesia, Malaysia and Pakistan, with predominantly Muslim populations.

In Indonesia, security around the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta was on alert following a call from radical Islamic group, the Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), for all Muslims to besiege the complex later Monday.

The group gave President Megawati Sukarnoputri a three-day deadline to cut diplomatic ties with the United States otherwise it would begin to hunt and forcibly evict foreigners and target U.S. facilities.

Early Monday, the situation in Jakarta was calm and businesses were operating as usual.

International schools were closed and the U.S., British and Australian embassies told their nationals to remain at home until more certain security assessments had been made.

Malaysia, another mostly Muslim nation, decried the attacks, with Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad saying civilians would be killed.

"Conventional war cannot overcome terrorism and defeat terrorists, it can only result in innocent people becoming victims," Mahathir said during the opening of Monday's parliament.

"The terrorists may get away. Even if they are killed or captured, so long as there are still terrorists around, there's no guarantee that others will not terrorize."

Regional support

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Support for the attacks was found elsewhere in the region.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi pledged to cooperate with the U.S. in the fight against terrorism.

"Our country strongly supports these actions to combat terrorism," Koizumi told reporters at an emergency news conference early Monday.

Koizumi has repeatedly said Japan would offer logistical support to any U.S.-led military campaign and introduced bills into parliament last week to allow its military to guard U.S. bases and also provide logistical support.

His government is also stepping up security at key sites such as U.S. military bases.

Meanwhile, China gave a cautious endorsement to the military strikes and hoped peace would be resumed "as soon as possible".

A foreign ministry spokesman said the Chinese government "opposes terrorism of any form and supports actions to combat terrorism" but has repeatedly said that any action should be taken according to U.N. resolutions.

CNN's Senior China Analyst Willy Lam reports that diplomatic sources in the Chinese capital said Beijing were also anxious that the forces of the U.S. and its allies leave the area as soon as the terrorist cells had been damaged and rooted out.

Indian backing

In India, a spokesman for Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee said the military strikes had India's backing.

The spokesman said Bush had called Vajpayee on Sunday about the decision to launch the strikes.

"He [Bush] said the United States condemns terrorism wherever it occurs as terrorism is terrorism and the fight against it would not be limited to a particular region," Reuters news agency quoted the spokesman as saying.

"He also assured the [militant group] Jaish-e-Mohammad would very soon be included in the U.S. list of terrorist groups."

Jaish-e-Mohammad were originally blamed for a suicide bombing in Indian controlled Kashmir last week that killed at least 38, but the group has since denied involvement.

South Korea, Taiwan, New Zealand and the Philippines also lent their support for the attacks against Afghanistan.

Muslims make up about 5 percent of the Philippines' population and radical elements, like the Abu Sayyaf guerilla group, exist in the south of the nation. Some of these hard-line elements have links to the al Qaeda militant network and have declared their support to the Taliban.

Warning for Australia

In Australia, a peak Muslim organization condemned the attacks on Afghanistan, saying innocent lives would be lost and Australia was now in potential danger.

"Australia will also be targeted by the terrorists because of the fact that we have gone out blatantly with America in the manner that we have," chief executive officer of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, Amjad Mehboob, said in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard, in the middle of a federal election campaign, said the strikes on Afghanistan were "an understandable precursor" to other actions after the Taliban refused to hand over Osama bin Laden.

He added that Australian troops were not involved but said that he has offered a 150-man commando squadron from the Special Air Service, two Boeing 707 air refuelling aircraft, naval ships and two P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft to assist in any military action.






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