European reaction: a tense silence WAR IN THE GULF

January 17, 1991|By Diana Jean Schemo | Diana Jean Schemo,Paris Bureau of The Sun

PARIS -- News of the first bombardments of Iraq last night snapped Europe into a state of high tension and secrecy.

NATO ambassadors called an emergency 3:30 a.m. meeting to discuss the crisis.

Turkey, which has 120,000 troops facing 100,000 Iraqi troops across their shared border, created a special crisis team in its Foreign Ministry with the outbreak of hostilities.

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said he received news of the hostilities "with deep dismay."

"Together with our partners, we will do everything within our power to end the war as quickly as possible," said Mr. Kohl.

Hours before the first U.S. bombers took off for Iraq yesterday, European leaders appealed to their people and parliaments for support in the war against Iraq behind U.S.-led forces.

Reluctantly conceding that the frenetic diplomatic attempts of the last few days to woo Iraq out of Kuwait stood no chance of success, France put to rest its differences with the United States and closed ranks with the allies.

"The diplomatic phase is over," French Foreign Minister Roland Dumas said after a Cabinet meeting yesterday. "We are now companions in arms."

With news of the first bombardments of Baghdad around 12:30 a.m. local time, official Paris reacted with silence.

According to the French military, Mirage jet fighters took part in yesterday's operation alongside U.S., British and Saudi bombers. This was not confirmed by U.S. sources.

At the Foreign Ministry, a spokeswoman would not say when President Bush notified French President Francois Mitterrand of the start of war, or what the two leaders may have said.

At the government level yesterday, the mood in France and Italy was one of grim resolve in the face of impending war.

But the streets of Paris were filled with anti-war protesters morning and night.

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