Shock at Virginia massacre

VIRGINIA - The deadliest shooting rampage in US history sent shudders around the world yesterday, triggering shock and sympathy along with questions over gun culture in the US.

VIRGINIA - The deadliest shooting rampage in US history sent shudders around the world yesterday, triggering shock and sympathy along with questions over gun culture in the US.

World leaders offered condolences to the victims' families, while voicing their horror at the senselessness of the massacre at a Virginia university on Monday that left 33 dead, including the unidentified gunman.

Australian Prime Minister John Howard recalled how a 1996 rampage by a gunman in Tasmania that killed 35 people forced his government to rethink gun control.

"We took action to limit the availability of guns and we showed a national resolve that the gun culture would never become a negative in our country," he said.

He extended his sympathies to the families of those killed and wounded, saying universities and schools should be "a sanctuary of learning and friendship".

In Canada Public Security Minister Stockwell Day said "the shock and horror of this act have reverberated" throughout the country.

Some survivors described the gunman as "Asian-looking" and the Chicago Sun-Times said police had identified him as a 24-year-old Chinese student who arrived in the US in August on a visa issued in Shanghai.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was unable to confirm the report.

Liu said that Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing had sent a telegram to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice expressing "shock, condolences and our sincere solicitude".

Queen Elizabeth II was "shocked and saddened," said a spokesman.

The queen will pay a two-day visit to Virginia next month during her first US visit in 16 years.

Among foreign governments to offer condolences was Iran, with which the US cut ties in 1980 after the seizure of the US embassy . Iranian foreign ministry spokes-man Mohammad Ali Hosseini said the massacre was "against divine and humanitarian values".

Virginia governor Timothy Kaine was in Tokyo when news of the shooting broke and Japan was quick to offer its sympathies.

"I would like to express condolences from the bottom of my heart," chief government spokes-man Yasuhisa Shiozaki said.

French President Jacques Chirac "offered President Bush, the families of the victims and the US people his most sorrowful condolences and his total solidarity, personally and in the name of the French people". - Sapa-AFP

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