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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 11:30 GMT 12:30 UK
African press on 'day of infamy'
Africa Media Watch
"Tuesday, September 11, 2001, will join December 7, 1941, the day Japan bombed Pearl Harbour, and perhaps surpass it as a day of infamy in US history."

So wrote Johannesburg's Business Day newspaper as it struggled, along with the rest of Africa and the world, to make sense of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in the United States.

Newspapers across the continent saw parallels with the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the racism conference in Durban, and feared that the crisis could escalate into a global conflict.

America today appears to be the victim of its power, which has exceeded all imagination

Algerian paper El-Youm
However, while there was almost universal sympathy for the US public, many saw the attacks as a protest against the United States' status as sole superpower and role as a global policeman.

Tanzania's The Guardian reported "shock, disbelief and horror reminiscent of the August 1998 American embassy bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi".

But it quoted a computer technician as saying that the attacks should serve as a lesson to the US.

"They should not brag of being the world police, they are as vulnerable as we are," said George Zava.

Dominance despised

An editorial in the Algerian newspaper El-Youm said that "these acts express rejection of a new world order" that is based on a monopoly of economic and military power.

"America today ... appears to be the victim of its power, which has exceeded all imagination - this power which has annoyed Europe, annoyed Russia, annoyed Japan, and also has been annoying for many of the weaker nations," it wrote.

We extend our hand to America and the American people without the old outpouring of hatred

Libya's Al-Jamahariyah

The paper, which suggested that the acts needed the involvement of national intelligence agencies, concluded that "whatever the background of these actions turn out to be, such operations are tantamount to a world war".

South African papers feared how the US might react to the attacks, but counselled caution from President George Bush.

A new world war?

The Pretoria News speculated that the "horrific attacks" had "the potential to be the catalyst for a major world conflict."

"We shudder to think what will follow, or how the US - growing increasingly unpopular in recent times - will react," it said.

Twenty years ago a similar attack on the US would undoubtedly have led to World War III

Afrikaans newspaper Beeld

"We hope they do not do anything reckless just to satisfy the desire of outraged citizens to avenge the tragic loss of life."

The Afrikaans newspaper Beeld said the situation "has the potential to change the course of present day world history", but saw hope for a reasoned response.

"Twenty years ago a similar attack on the US would undoubtedly have led to World War III," the Johannesburg daily wrote.

"Mercifully the changes in Russia and the fall of the Berlin Wall defused the tension between East and West to the extent that [Tuesday's] events - however gruesome - need not lead to a world war."

Ties to Israel

US support for Israel loomed large in many commentaries.

"How utterly tragic that such a brutal display of intolerance should occur less than one week after the World Conference Against Racism," wrote The Citizen of Johannesburg.

"We have no doubt that the attacks are directly linked to US support for Israel, which must include the walkout by both delegations in Durban."

Was there need to export the Middle East conflict to the United States?

Les Echos of Mali

Fraternite Matin in Cote d'Ivoire, wondering what "the future has in store for both the United States and the world" on such a "day of wickedness", also noted the WCAR walkout.

"Almost exactly one week after the United States and Israel pulled out of the conference on racism in South Africa, the United States has been humiliated and, literally and metaphorically, trampled upon," the Abidjan paper said.

Reach out or turn in?

Perhaps voicing the feelings of some Americans, Les Echos in Mali asked: "Was there need to export the Middle East conflict to the United States?"

The shock and disbelief was summed up in a Libyan editorial.

"No one could have envisaged or imagined such an event, not even those with very fertile imaginations or the script writers in Hollywood," Al-Jamahariyah said.

"What happened was more than a disaster and more than a tragedy," it wrote.

"Therefore, human considerations must supersede everything else and they must be above the severed relations, the disagreements and the disputes.

"We extend our hand to America and the American people without any mental blocks and without the old outpouring of hatred," the Tripoli paper said, imploring the US to accept the world's offers of help.

But Business Day suggested that US isolationists may now "urge withdrawal from the rest of the world".

"'If this is what international engagement has brought us,' they may well ask, 'why bother?'" the paper said.

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

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