Traditional American allies expressed strong support for the U.S.-led attack on Iraq today, while other countries -- many apparently taken by surprise -- said nothing or reported the bombing raids without substantive comment.

Perhaps the most striking positive response came not from a foreign government but from the European oil market. Crude oil dropped $12 a barrel -- its biggest drop in history -- to about $21 today, news services reported.

In Moscow, President Mikhail S. Gorbachev said the United States gave him an hour's warning of its attack and that he urged President Bush to make one last attempt to contact Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, news services reported.

In a televised address, Gorbachev promised to "take every possible measure" to hasten the end of the war.

Gorbachev said he got a call from Secretary of State James A. Baker III about an hour before the first U.S.-led air attack on Iraq. "I immediately proposed to President Bush that he make additional efforts through a direct contact with Saddam Hussein to obtain an immediate statement from him about a withdrawal of forces from Kuwait," Gorbachev said.

During the night, Soviet officials also contacted the leaders of France, Britain, Germany, India, and the heads of most Arab states, he said. "We did everything conceivable to settle the conflict by non-military means," he said.

The Soviet news agency Tass reported that armed forces in the southern Soviet Union closest to the Persian Gulf war were put on high alert early today.

Japan, the sole member of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations that has sent no troops to the gulf, expressed "resolute support for the use of military force . . . as a final measure to restore peace and drive out the invader," and pledged to provide unspecified additional funds to help defray the costs of the war, Reuter reported.

Finance Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto told a news conference the aid would total a "substantial sum" and be more comprehensive than the package already pledged by Japan.

Japan, largely dependent on Middle East oil, has so far earmarked $2 billion towards the upkeep of the multinational force in the Persian Gulf and an additional $2 billion to help soften the economic effects of the confrontation on Iraq's neighbors.

In Manila, Philippine President Corazon Aquino said her government, which is embroiled in sometimes acrimonious negotiations with Washington over the future of U.S. military bases here, "supports without reservation the action of the coalition forces led by the United States."

"We note with approval and relief the stress made by President Bush that the goal of the military action is not the conquest of Iraq but the liberation of Kuwait," said Aquino, whose backing for U.S. policy in the gulf had previously been lukewarm.

At about 3 a.m. Washington time, British Prime Minister John Major told reporters in London that the assault had been "very successful." His predecessor, Margaret Thatcher, predicted that the war will "finish with the defeat of the dictator."

German Chancellor Helmut Kohl told the Associated Press that he learned of the attack with deep dismay.

Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim Akbulut said in a radio interview that he would seek an authorization for Turkish forces to fight beyond his country's borders if it is attacked, but "this will not be a declaration of war." He went on to say, "Turkish troops and armies will not engage in any action . . . unless our country is attacked."

As of mid-morning, the only strong condemnation had come from Cuban President Fidel Castro and the Palestine Liberation Organization. Castro learned of the raids as he gave a news conference to Western reporters in Havana. "My feeling is one of sorrow, of deep bitterness," he said. "The responsibility for the war falls on those who fired the first shot . . . essentially, the United States."

The PLO leadership, in a statement carried by the Palestinian news agency Wafa, accused "the U.S.-Israeli-European coalition" of "cowardly aggression" against Iraq and said it should be opposed "on all levels. . . . It is a black day in the history of humanity," the PLO said.

Elsewhere in the Arab world, which has been split between participation in the anti-Iraq alliance and support of Saddam, reaction was slow.

Elated Kuwaiti exiles in the gulf emirate of Bahrain poured into the streets and filled mosques to pray, according to the Associated Press. "This is a great day," said Hassan Quoad, who fled his occupied country two months ago. "I want to return to Kuwait as soon as possible."

President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani of neighboring Iran -- which only recently has developed on civil relations with Iraq after an eight-year war -- voiced "deep regret for the start of clashes and human losses." Official communiques stressed Iran's neutrality and said it was closely monitoring the fighting.

Jordan, which has both backed Saddam politically and expressed adherence to the U.N.-imposed sanctions, delayed reporting the beginning of the war until nearly three hours after most of the world learned of it, the Los Angeles Times reported from Amman. There was no immediate statement from King Hussein's government.

According to Jerusalem radio, Bethlehem Mayor Elias Freij, a Palestinian moderate, called the outbreak of war "regrettable," but said "the Iraqis brought the war upon themselves because of their intransigence."

At the United Nations, Secretary General Javier Perez de Cuellar, who made an unsuccessful last-minute appeal to Saddam to leave Kuwait, in conformance with a dozen U.N. Security Council resolutions, expressed sorrow, Reuter reported.

Pope John Paul II began to pray after being informed of the attack, the Italian news agency AGI reported. The pope called the outbreak of war "a grave defeat" for the world.

South Korean President Roh Tae Woo, in a message to Bush, said: "I, along with the people of the Republic of Korea, fully support the resolute military actions" of the force.

In Madrid, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry said Spain supported the attack.

The European Community called an emergency foreign ministers' meeting in Paris for today, and an EC source said it was likely to discuss aid to any refugees from the war.

Correspondent William Branigin in Manila and staff writer Don Oberdorfer in Washington contributed to this report.