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Wednesday, 12 September, 2001, 14:12 GMT 15:12 UK
Mixed response in the Mid-East
Some Palestinians in Lebanon celebrated the attacks
Middle East leaders have condemned the attacks in the United States as unimaginable and horrible.

But on the streets of Arab capitals, many people say they are not surprised and a few are even celebrating, seeing the attacks as punishment for America's support for Israel.

It a humanitarian duty to console the American people on this memorable day characterised by this grave and horrible incident

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi
The Egyptian president, Hosni Mubarak, said he was saddened by the attacks while Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat said he was shocked by what he described as an unbelievable disaster.

Iraq provided the only official voice of dissent. One newspaper described the attacks as a "lesson for all tyrants and oppressors" and the "fruit" of American crimes.

Hardline states

But four other hardline states in the region that have been accused by the United States of sponsoring terrorism - Libya, Syria, Sudan and Iran - were quick to condemn the attacks.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said that despite political differences with America, it was "a humanitarian duty to console the American people on this memorable day characterised by this grave and horrible incident".

Iranian President Mohammad Khatami "expressed deep regret and sympathy with the victims" and said it was "an international duty to try to undermine terrorism".

Sudan and Syria also offered condolences to the families of innocent American victims.

Syrians read about the attacks against Washington and New York
People in the Arab world were stunned by the attack

Regional leaders are painfully aware that Israel could win greater international sympathy for its military actions against Palestinian opponents as a result of the attacks.

Arab diplomacy has recently focused on trying to get the United States to exert pressure on Israel in order to restart peace talks with the Palestinians.

An Arab link to the attacks can only harden American public opinion and make such pressure even less likely.

American suspicions

As American suspicions turn towards Palestinian groups and the dissident Saudi Islamist, Osama Bin Laden, leaders in the region must be hoping that no Arab group will be implicated.

The Palestinian Islamist movements, Jihad and Hamas, disassociated themselves from the attacks but said that American policy was to blame.

Mr Arafat meanwhile, has expressed a willingness to help track down the perpetrators.

The Palestinian authority is said to have ordered youths in the occupied territories not to congregate or show any signs of jubilation.

But in Palestinian refugee camps in the West Bank and Lebanon, shots were fired in celebration and some said that as Israel's chief backer, the United States deserved this punishment.

The BBCs Jim Muir
looks at the response in Iran
The BBC's Frank Gardner
"Enlisting Arab help will have its limitations"
Dr Mahmoud Allzahar, Hamas spokesman
"We are condemning the terrorism"
See also:

12 Sep 01 | Middle East
Iraq hails attack on US
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