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European Leaders Send Condolences to US, Israel Over Loss of Shuttle Crew

A stunned Europe has sent messages of sorrow to America, as the loss of the shuttle Columbia and its seven crew members sinks in. European leaders also sent condolences to Israel, which is mourning the loss of the first Israeli to travel to space.

Across Europe, the feelings are the same: Feelings of loss and sadness.

In Russia, President Vladimir Putin personally conveyed his condolences to President Bush by telephone. The Russian leader said that U.S.-Russian cooperation in space exploration made the accident even more tragic for his people.

Nevertheless, Russia went ahead with the launch of a cargo ship, bound for the International Space Station, which is currently manned by a Russian and two Americans.

The European Space Agency said in a statement that it shared in the grief "that struck NASA and the whole space community today."

European leaders also expressed sorrow. French President Jacques Chirac expressed his feelings of solidarity. German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder paid tribute to those he called the courageous men and women of Columbia's crew.

Here in London, Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed his government's sadness and sorrow in messages to President Bush and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. The same feelings were expressed in many church services held throughout the country.

In St. Peter's Square in Rome, Pope John Paul II, invited people to pray for the victims of the accident at what he called "this extremely testing time."

European Commission President Romano Prodi summed up the sentiments of many in saying that Europeans share in the loss. In a message, he said the work of the astronauts was of benefit to all of humanity.