European Leaders Consider Response, Show Solidarity

By Mike Wendling | July 7, 2008 | 8:10 PM EDT

London ( - European foreign ministers gathered in Brussels on Wednesday to consider a collective response to terrorist attacks that killed thousands of people in the United States.

At NATO headquarters, Secretary General Lord Robertson called on the international community to unite forces against terrorism. Ambassadors meeting at the headquarters considered invoking Article V of the alliance charter, which declares that an attack on any NATO nation is an attack on all of them.

In London, UK Prime Minister Tony Blair recalled the British Parliament one month early after an emergency cabinet meeting Wednesday morning.

Blair said that he feared a "significant number" of the casualties would turn out to be British. The British Press Association later reported that 15 British nationals are among the missing in New York.

"People of all faiths and all political persuasions have a common goal, to identify the machinery of terror and dismantle it as soon as possible," Blair said. "This is not a battle between the United States and terrorism, but between the free and democratic world and terrorism."

Expatriate American citizens and others formed a makeshift memorial Wednesday outside the American embassy in London. The embassy itself was, like all U.S. installations worldwide, on a heightened state of alert. BBC television showed pictures of vehicles being towed away from the building, presumably as a security measure.

Journalists were briefly evacuated Wednesday morning from 10 Downing Street, the prime minister's official residence. The Bank of America's London office was also evacuated shortly after 9 a.m. (4 a.m. EST).

Pope John Paul, in what is believed to be an unprecedented gesture, opened his weekly audience with a lengthy condemnation of the attacks.

"Evil will not have the last word," the Pope said.

Intelligence officials from Britain, France and Germany indicated that Islamic fundamentalist Osama bin Laden is behind the attacks, but ministers conceded that there was as of yet no conclusive evidence showing responsibility.

"The way it was carried out, the choice of targets, the military approach, the highly professional preparation and the presumably large financial resources ... mean there are many points that indicate we should look for the perpetrators among those around Osama bin Laden," said German chief of staff Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The UK government has promised its full military resources in the event of an American counterattack.

Government activities throughout Europe were diverted towards responding to the attacks. The announcement of the winner of the UK Conservative Party leadership race was delayed, and soccer matches around the continent were postponed or cancelled.

A spokesman for Heathrow Airport said the UK's main air hubs were "relatively quiet" after all transatlantic flights were cancelled and flights to Israel and other destinations were cancelled or disrupted.

British Airways has cancelled all flights to Tel Aviv and Islamabad, Pakistan.

Stock exchanges throughout Europe opened as normal Wednesday. Share prices were highly volatile in morning trading, but most exchanges stabilized by the afternoon. On Tuesday, most European exchanges registered the biggest losses since the market crash of October 1987. British banking analysts said there might be a coordinated round of interest rate cuts in Europe to head off a plunge into global recession.

See Earlier Story:

World in Shock as Governments Formulate Reaction to Attacks (Sept. 12, 2001)