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Silence as Europe mourns dead

LONDON, England -- A three-minute silence falls across Europe on Friday as the continent joins the U.S. in a day of mourning for victims of the terror attacks.

Some 800 million residents in 43 countries across Europe -- from Iceland to Russia -- were being asked to observe the moment of silence at 11 a.m. (1000 GMT).

In Brussels, Belgium, European Commission President Romano Prodi will lead mourning by staff of European Union institutions.

In London, offices, shops, courts and factories were falling silent, as were the Houses of Parliament -- meeting in a rare special session to debate Britain's response to the attacks.

Tourist attractions such as the giant London Eye Ferris wheel along the River Thames also will come to a stop.

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Pubs have been asked to delay their 11 a.m. opening by five minutes, shop staff have been told not to process transactions, and black cabs and buses will pull over for three minutes.

An hour later, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair will join U.S. Ambassador William Farish and other representatives from international embassies for a special service at St. Paul's Cathedral.

The service will open with the U.S. national anthem and include a biblical reading by Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, and a sermon by the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The queen flew back to London from her summer home at Balmoral, Scotland, to offer her condolences in person to the U.S. ambassador.

About 100 British nationals are among those killed in the terrorist attacks that destroyed New York's World Trade Center twin towers, UK officials said, adding that the number could reach the "middle hundreds."

More than 16,000 people worried about friends and family in the United States have called UK emergency lines since Tuesday, according to Scotland Yard, which is sending a police team to the United States to help identify the dead and assist families of British victims.

On Thursday, a special Changing of the Guard ceremony at Buckingham Palace included the first-ever playing of the U.S. national anthem, "The Star-Spangled Banner," by the Coldstream Guards -- moving many in the crowd of about 3,000 to tears.

The service, which included a two-minute silence, was attended by the U.S. ambassador and the Duke of York and included the playing of "Hymn for the Fallen," written by U.S. composer John Williams for the film "Saving Private Ryan."

The White House thanked Britain for its "wonderful solidarity" and for playing the U.S. national anthem at the palace. Washington spokesman Ari Fleischer called the moment "touching."

"The UK has lost the lives of many of their citizens," he said. "It is a further expression of a wonderful solidarity the world is showing with the USA."

Blair has said Britain stands "shoulder to shoulder" with the United States in this time of crisis, and reiterated his unequivocal backing for the U.S. and President George W. Bush when he opened the emergency session of Parliament.

Friday's session is the 18th special session of Parliament since World War II. It was not due back from its summer break until October 15.

Earlier on Friday, the 15 government leaders of the EU vowed to chase down those responsible for the attacks on the United States and hold accountable any countries providing them shelter.

The EU leaders signed a statement outlining an anti-terrorism policy.

"We will not, under any circumstances, allow those responsible to find refuge, wherever they may be," the statement said. "Those responsible for hiding, supporting or harbouring the perpetrators, organizers and sponsors of these acts will be held accountable."

The EU nations also said they would unify their arrest warrants and extradition orders and bolster their common foreign and security policies in their fight against terrorism.

EU transport ministers are holding an emergency meeting Friday to discuss airport security improvements. EU foreign ministers earlier expressed full solidarity with the U.S., declaring Friday's three-minute silence as part of a day of mourning.

The declaration was expanded to include all 43 member states of the Council of Europe based in Strasbourg, France.


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