No leads ruled out on blasts: Aznar
* EU leaders to join Madrid anti-terror rally
* Asian states say no country free from threat
MADRID: Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar on Friday said no lead would be ignored on the Madrid bomb blasts which killed 198 people.
“We will leave no stone unturned in our enquiries. We will follow up each and every lead,” Aznar told a news conference. Pointing out that the attacks had killed citizens of 11 countries, Aznar said “all the forces of democracy and society must stand up” in the face of the terrible adversity which had befallen Madrid.
Aznar, speaking against a backdrop of a Spanish flag bearing a black ribbon of mourning, also said that 408 people remained in hospital, 38 of them in a critical condition. He further announced that immigrant families caught up in the tragedy would be granted legal residency permits.
EU leaders: EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana and European Commission chief Romano Prodi were to travel to Madrid on Friday to join a mass rally against bombings that killed nearly 200 people, officials said.
Several other commission members, including its two Spaniards - Loyola de Palacio and Pedro Solbes - were also heading to Spain as was the justice commissioner, Portugal’s Antonio Vitorino, whose portfolio includes anti-terrorism policy.
Protests were planned across Spain from midday, culminating in a huge march organised by the government in Madrid to express grief and denounce terrorism, a day after 198 people were killed in bomb attacks on four commuter trains.
Asia condemns attacks: Asia joined a chorus of condemnation Friday after a series of coordinated bomb attacks in Madrid killed 198 people in Europe’s most deadly extremist violence since the 1988 Lockerbie bombing.
In Australia, Prime Minister John Howard described the bombings, which also left 1,400 wounded, as “a dreadful atrocity without any kind of justification.” Japan, which also features on the Al-Qaeda list, was quick to condemn the attacks, which Spanish media described as “our own September 11.”
“Such cowardly terrorist attacks cannot be forgiven or justified,” Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi said in a message to her Spanish counterpart. Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi sent a separate statement of condolences.
Indonesia, which suffered a huge bombing at the hands of the Al-Qaeda-linked Jemaah Islamiyah group in Bali in 2002 in which 202 people were killed, said the blasts showed the need for international cooperation in fighting terrorism.
China echoed the condemnation, in a message from Premier Wen Jiabao to Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar, the Xinhua news agency reported.
President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, a key ally in the US-led campaigns in both Afghanistan and Iraq, offered his “heartfelt condolences” to the government and the people of Spain and to the bereaved families.
President Hamid Karzai of neighbouring Afghanistan, where fugitive Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is believed to be in hiding, said: “This act represents violence at an appalling scale, and with terrible consequences.”
Philippine Foreign Secretary Delia Albert described the bombings as a “dastardly, cowardly attack against innocent civilians,” and expressed hope that the perpetrators would be brought to justice.
“We stand by the brave people of Spain in this hour of grief and sorrow,” she added.
Singapore, which like Spain is a staunch US ally in the global campaign against terrorism, took the occasion to call for intensified international cooperation against armed extremists.
“Singapore strongly condemns such acts of calculated terror and violence,” the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
“Such acts of terrorism underscore the urgent need for countries to intensify their cooperation in the battle against terrorism,” it said. —AFP