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Some Asian Nations Back Attack, But Indonesia Regrets Action - 2001-10-08


Reaction to the U.S. and British missile strikes against Taleban military positions and suspected terrorists camps in Afghanistan has been mixed in Asia. Traditional allies are backing the military operation, but some governments are expressing deep concern.

Asian governments have deployed additional security forces around U.S. and British embassies in their countries, as authorities respond to an uneasy calm prevailing since Sunday's air strikes.

Leaders of more than a half-dozen Asian countries have expressed strong support for the strikes against suspected terrorist sites in Afghanistan.

Singapore's foreign ministry says the government supports the global campaign against terrorism, including military action, and called it a legitimate act of self-defense. A statement notes the Singapore government is satisfied there is enough evidence to link last month's attacks in New York and Washington to terrorist groups based in Afghanistan.

Cambodia's Prime Minister Hun Sen praised Sunday's strikes, saying they were not aimed at destroying the Afghan people or their country, but to liberate them from terrorism.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard says this is the time to stand beside the Americans. He says no Australian forces were involved in the strikes but they likely would be in the future.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo Monday urged Filipinos to support the campaign against terrorism, calling it a just offensive to rid mankind of the most ruthless and brutal terrorist organization in modern times. But a spokesman for the Muslim separatist movement, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, called the strikes a retaliatory war that will only victimize more civilians.

The leaders of Japan, Taiwan and South Korea all back the strikes as justified.

Leaders of other Asian nations, however, have expressed criticism and concern.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad told Parliament conventional war can not overcome terrorism. He said it will only victimize innocent people and could lead to what he called a catastrophe. A leader of the opposition Islam Party of Malaysia, called the strikes themselves an act of terrorism.

The Indonesian government Monday expressed concern over Sunday's strikes and urged that the operation remain limited in order to avoid more casualties. A leader of the country's largest Muslim group, Nahdlatul Ulama, expressed regret over the strikes. And smaller, more militant groups said they would stage demonstrations to protest the U.S.-led operation.

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