Europe Marks 9/11 With Memorials, Criticism

By Eva Cahen | July 7, 2008 | 8:17 PM EDT

Paris, France ( - Europeans took part Monday in memorial services across the continent in remembrance of the victims of 9/11, but politicians and media commentators also used the opportunity to question American policies in the fight against terrorism.

In Paris, Senate president Christian Poncelet joined with the U.S. deputy chief of mission Karl Hofmann to lay a wreath at the base of a tree planted in January 2002 in memory of the victims of the al-Qaeda attacks five years ago.

"The authors of this barbaric act wanted to leave a mark on our spirit," Poncelet said. "They have certainly marked history and ravaged memories, but history does not allow itself to be impressed by a crime, no matter how odious. It records it and does not forget it."

Putting aside differences over the Iraq war, President Jacques Chirac earlier sent a written message to President Bush, expressing the "friendship and solidarity of the French people with the American people" in the fight against terrorism.

At a summit meeting in Helsinki, Finland, European and Asian leaders stood for a minute of silence.

In London, which was also hit by terrorists bombs last year, Culture Secretary Tessa Jowell and U.S. Ambassador Robert Tuttle held a minute of silence at a permanent memorial, where 67 white roses have been planted for the 67 British victims of the 9/11 attacks.

A commemoration also took place in Madrid, where terrorist bombs planted in trains in March 2004 killed 191 people.

Stock exchanges in several European countries also observed silences while in Rome, bells tolled in commemoration.

Some newspapers marked the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks by repeating criticism of U.S. international policy, particularly against the 2003 war to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

According to opinion polls, most Europeans remain opposed to America's actions in Iraq.

In a recent survey of Europeans by the German Marshall Fund, 77 percent of respondents said they disapproved of how America handles its international affairs.

The Spanish Newspaper El Pais wrote, "five years after [9/11], it is a more dangerous world," and accused the Bush administration of carrying out a "neo-conservative" foreign policy, using the attacks as a pretext.

Spain's former conservative government participated in the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq, but the Socialists won an election days after the March 2004 al-Qaeda bombings in Madrid and soon afterwards withdraw Spanish forces.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel also questioned U. S. polices in the campaign against terrorists, saying "the ends cannot justify the means."

"Respect for human rights, tolerance and respect for other cultures must be the maxim of our actions, along with decisiveness and international cooperation," she said.

Merkel is seen as more sympathetic to U.S. polices that her predecessor, Gerhard Schroeder, who with Chirac spearheaded European opposition to the Iraq war.

At the Paris ceremony, Hofmann told participants that the U.S. was determined to promote democracy as one way of eradicating terrorism.

"The need to combat and eventually to vanquish the scourge of terrorism in the world is something that all of us must be committed to, that every part of the civilized community is committed to, within the United Nations and within other contexts as well," he said.

"The spread of liberty must be part of the answer that we all bring to the challenge posed by terrorism."

Chirac's letter to Bush, which was made public at the Europe-Asia summit in Helsinki, was notably lacking in criticism.

"Together, we pursue our determined struggle against this blight that nothing can ever justify," he wrote.

Hofmann said the U.S. and France had been friends for 200 years.

"We've stood side by side, including in some of the dark and more difficult moments, both for us and for France, and we never doubted each other during those moments."

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