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By Emil Danielyan

With heads bowed in respect and hands holding candles, about two hundred Armenians joined on Tuesday mourners across the world to commemorate the three-month anniversary of the September 11 terror attacks on the United States at an open-air ceremony in Yerevan.

Ordinary people, government ministers and foreign diplomats stood in somber silence as two local signers gave a mournful rendition of the Armenian and US anthems at 6:46 p.m. (1346 GMT) -- the moment the first of the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center. Archbishop Nerses Pozapalian of the Armenian Apostolic Church offered a prayer for the nearly 3,300 people killed in the bloody attacks on New York and Washington.

“I will never forget seeing all of you here this evening, three months to the day after this horrible event, with your candles lighted in the display of hope,” the US ambassador to Armenia, John Ordway, said in a speech. Ordway said the commemorations, which were scheduled in more than 70 countries, are important for “showing the world that we are united” against the threat posed by international terrorism.

People from more than 80 countries died in the terror attacks. Five of the victims were of Armenian descent.

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, who led the ceremony together with the US envoy, condemned “the arbitrary and reckless taking of innocent lives” and reaffirmed Yerevan’s support for the US-led military action that followed the September 11 attacks. “We fully support and are involved in those measures because we view terrorism as a threat to not only big powers but also small countries like Armenia,” he told reporters.

Oskanian said the upcoming visit to Armenia by US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld will be “important” for the bilateral relations but declined to give any details. The ongoing military campaign in Afghanistan is expected to top the agenda of Rumsfeld’s talks in Armenia and neighboring Georgia and Azerbaijan.
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