Victims of the Sept. 11 attacks were mourned worldwide Saturday, but in the Middle East, Arabs said Washington's support for Israel and the war on terror that began in the aftermath of the World Trade Center's collapse only fueled anger and violence.
From Egypt to Yemen, Arabs said the world had become less safe during the three years since 19 militants from the Middle East hijacked four passenger planes in the United States and used them to kill nearly 3,000 people.
"Sept. 11 was a tragic day in our history because so many innocent people were killed at the hands of militants, who find a fertile ground in our region in view of the biased U.S. policies toward Israel and against Arab causes," said 34-year-old banker Mahmoud Obeid in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
Arabs have long blamed U.S. policies in the Middle East, including Washington's support for Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians, for fomenting the kind of anti-American hatred that could drive people to launch attacks of the magnitude of those on Sept. 11, 2001.
Egyptian columnist Fahmy Howeidy called for critical self analysis from people in the Middle East and Islamic worlds "because those people who committed the Sept. 11 attacks ... were (also) Muslims and Arabs."
"But ... the problem is the Americans don't want to criticize themselves," he told The Associated Press. "They don't look at their policies and mistakes, like the U.S. position toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By defending the terrorism committed by Israel against the Palestinians, they are filling people with anger."
An audiotape purportedly by key terror suspect Abu Musab al-Zarqawi that boasts in an apparently recent recording that Islamic holy warriors have humiliated the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq.
The 45-minute recording surfaced Saturday, the of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States, on a Web site known for its Islamic content. The poetic style and tone were similar to past tapes, but there was no way to verify its authenticity.
The archbishop of Canterbury, in Egypt to help mend religious rifts, urged Muslims, Christians and Jews to move beyond "the way the faithless world thinks" and reject violent revenge, terror and the killing of innocents.
"If we do act in the same way as our enemies, we imprison ourselves in their anger, their evil," Rowan Williams said during a speech to religious leaders at a top Sunni Muslim center in Cairo.
"We are not forced to act in revengeful ways," added Williams, who was in New York when al Qaeda militants slammed hijacked planes into the World Trade Center's twin towers three years ago.
For some, the anniversary underlined the need to press on in military action. U.S. troops in Iraq held small ceremonies to coincide with the moment the first jetliner slammed into the World Trade Center.
Commemorating Sept. 11 "reinforces the fact that we should go kick ...," said Sgt. Dionna Eves, 23, a medic from Clearwater, Fla. "It reminds you of why you're here. Anyone who poses any kind of threat should be taken out to prevent something so tragic from happening again."
But Capt. Rick Hewitt, 31, of La Crosse, Wisconsin, said the attacks don't "really change our mission here one iota. We're trying to rebuild this country."
The U.S. 9/11 Commission has said there's no evidence Saddam Hussein's ousted regime had a role in the attacks or a "collaborative relationship" with al Qaeda. Still, the Bush administration has painted the Iraq war as part of the war on terror and says bringing democracy to the country will help reduce support for extremism.
The third anniversary of the attacks was welcomed by some, particularly contributors to militant Islamic Web sites.
"I thank God that He made us see such a day," said one online contributor who identified herself only as Umm Rafida. "Whenever I look to the picture of the tower while its collapsing, tears well in my eyes and I thank God."
Lebanon's leading newspaper, An-Nahar, published a caricature depicting the numbers "11" in the form of two tower buildings with black smoke rising from the top. "Since Sept. 11, 2001, the world has been killed by terrorism," the caricature's caption says.
An editorial in the Saudi English-language Arab News daily called for an end to the "blame game" perpetuating "our own poisoned sense of victimhood, while alienating and confirming others in their own negative views."
Describing the Sept. 11 plane hijackers, including 15 Saudis, as "twisted fanatics," the paper said world has not become safer since then.
"There is now no international unity in the face of terrorism - shattered as it was by Washington's attempted hijacking of it to fight the wholly unconnected war in Iraq, by the desire of other governments to use the situation for their own political purposes, and by the cowardice of some when themselves directly targeted by terrorists," the paper's online version said.
In Pakistan, the anniversary raised security fears and authorities deployed hundreds of extra security forces to embassies, government buildings and other potential targets.
"Our security are already on alert and doing their work well, but due to third anniversary of the 9/11 events, we have asked them to be extra vigilant and alert," Interior Ministry spokesman Abdur Rauf Chaudhry said.
Students in Peshawar, Pakistan chanted anti-U.S. slogans at a rally marking the Sept. 11 anniversary Saturday. Leaders of the rally blamed the U.S. for staging the drama of Sept. 11 to provide excuse to attack Afghanistan and Iraq.
Russia pointed to last week's tragic hostage-taking at a southern school, which was blamed on supporters of Chechen separatists and which ended with some 330 hostages dead.
After the Sept. 11 attacks "the world had changed irreversibly," the Russian Foreign Ministry said. "But not all of us then fully understood the real danger of the enemy appearing before us. (Now) the whole world recognized this, shuddering from another barbaric terrorist act - this time in Russia, this September."
The ministry rankled at past criticism of the Kremlin's bloody war in Chechnya, where it says separatists have al Qaeda links. The ministry called for "a new level of antiterrorism partnership, free from 'double standards'."
Spain's press linked the anniversary with the six month commemoration of the Madrid bombings, which killed 191 people. Leading daily El Pais said the world has not become safer since Sept. 11, with Casablanca, Istanbul and Jakarta being added to the list of cities affected by Islamic terrorism.
Amman supermarket owner Hamzeh Ghazawi, 26, said: "On this day every year, I remember the beginning of the chaos, the fear and the insecurity which the United States has brought upon the whole world."
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