The U.S.-led air assault against Iraq Thursday drew mixed reaction around the globe, with some world leaders pledging military hardware and firm support for the use of force in the Persian Gulf and other people pleading for peace.

Kuwaiti expatriates screamed in joy and honked car horns in the streets of Cairo, Egypt, while curfews were imposed in the Israeli-occupied territories to confine 1.75 million Palestinians to their homes and prevent possible disturbances by supporters of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.Israeli workers in key industries were ordered to report to work, and the public was advised to prepare to use government-issued gas masks in the event of poison gas attack by Baghdad.

Members of the U.N. Security Council were summoned to U.N. headquarters in New York late Wednesday and leaders of NATO met in Brussels, just a few hours after the war broke out.

U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar defended the massive U.S. air attacks against Iraq.

"The hostilities are in the framework of the resolutions of the Security Council," he said.

In Moscow, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev blamed Saddam Hussein for the outbreak of war, saying intransigence by the Iraqi president had provoked world ire.

The hostilities were provoked "by the refusal of the leadership of Iraq to carry out the demands of the world community to pull its forces out of Kuwait," he told the country in a pre-recorded television broadcast.

Gorbachev said Secretary of State James Baker had advised Moscow an hour before allied forces attacked that hostilities were about to begin.

He said he immediately contacted President Bush and sought to contact Saddam in a last ditch effort to avert war.

- AUSTRALIA authorized three of its ships to take part in the U.S.-led action to force Saddam's troops out of oil-rich Kuwait, invaded Aug. 2.

"The great lesson of this century is that peace is bought at too high a price if that price is the appeasement of aggression," Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke said.

- CANADA authorized its troops in the gulf to carry out sweep and escort missions if necessary in the war against Iraq.

- ARGENTINA's Foreign Minister Domingo Cavallo said his government will keep two ships in the Persian Gulf and try to persuade its Congress to authorize the vessels to fight. "It is the world that is at war against Iraq," Cavallo said.

- JAPAN said it was prepared to provide additional financial assistance to the multinational forces in the Middle East.

"Japan gives its resolute support to military actions taken against Iraq by the multinational forces as the last resort to force Iraq to withdraw from Kuwait," Prime Minister Toshiki Kaifu said in a nationally televised address three hours after the attack began.

- CHINA urged Iraq and the U.S.-led multinational military force that attacked it to exercise "restraint" so the conflict can be resolved peacefully.

- POPE JOHN PAUL II expressed "deep sadness" for the outbreak of war in the gulf and said it marked "a grave defeat" for the world.

"The news that reached me during the night of the drama under way in the gulf has induced in me and in all of you feelings of deep sadness and discouragement," John Paul said in remarks Thursday to officials of the Vatican's Secretariat of State.

"Up until the last moment, I prayed and hoped that this would not happen and I did all that was humanly possible to avert the tragedy," he said.

Middle East reaction

Most governments in the region reacted with caution. Jordan closed its international airport and airspace, and Iran expressed "deep regret" at the outbreak of war.

Like the Palestine Liberation Organization, Iran asserted bitterly that Israel was in a position to benefit from the conflict. The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, a hard-line Palestinian faction, called on all Arabs to join the war on Iraq's behalf.

Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi urged the United Nations to limit military operations to liberating Kuwait and to halt air raids on Iraq. President Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia asked the U.N. Security Council to stop the war.

But Saudi Arabia and Egypt, two of the major participants in the U.S.-dominated multinational force, welcomed the attack, giving it blow-by-blow coverage on state radio and television.

"Victory is but from God," said the Saudi government.

Cairo Radio interrupted an early-morning comedy program to tell Egyptians of the war, and Cairo Television, which normally shuts down about 1 a.m., stayed on through the night.

The newspaper of Syria's ruling Baath Party blamed Iraq's Saddam Hussein for the war, saying, "No one can shed a tear for this regime."