Somber mood settles across Europe most leaders have little to say

January 17, 1991|By Los Angeles Times

In cities from Copenhagen, Denmark, to Rome, lights burned late in government offices and citizens sat glued to television sets to hear the first sketchy details of the globe's newest war.

News of the attack against Iraq broke shortly after midnight European time and initial official reaction to the military action was cryptic.

The attack followed a day of sporadic anti-war protests as a sense of foreboding settled over the continent with the realization that diplomatic options had run out.

In Germany, a nation that destroyed much of Europe and was then itself destroyed by war half a century ago, the mood was especially glum.

In Bonn, German Chancellor Helmut Kohl said that he received the news with dismay, but pledged support from his country, Europe's strongest economic power and one of America's closest NATO allies.

"All efforts towards a peaceful solution have failed," he said in a prepared statement issued by the Federal Press Office in Bonn.

"Along with our partners, we will do everything we can to make this war end as quickly as possible."

The opposition Social Democrats called for an emergency parliamentary debate today on the action.

In Berlin, protesters marched to the memorial church near the city center.

It appeared that French President Francois Mitterrand had been informed of the imminent attack when he delivered a national televised address last night.

The speech was unusually emotional and patriotic for the the 74-year-old French leader.

"The arms are going to speak," Mitterrand announced only three hours before the allied attack began. He asked the French people to rally around the 12,000 French troops in the gulf, and concluded with the famous French patriotic appeal: "Vive La Republic."

In Britain, the archbishop of Canterbury, Robert Runcie, leader of the world's 60 million Anglicans, said the allied cause in the gulf was just but he prayed that minimum force would be used.

"My first prayers are for our servicemen and women in the gulf and their families," he said.

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