AUSTRALIA ON ALERT FOR AIRLINE TERRORISTS

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SYDNEY, Australia (ABC News Online, Aug. 1) - The Prime Minister
says Australia needs to keep a sense of perspective when considering how it
responds to terrorist threats.

Despite new terrorist warnings from the United States this week,
John Howard says Australia remains one of the world's safest countries.

Mr Howard says Australians need to be vigilant but also preserve
a sense of proportion when reflecting on terrorist threats.

John Howard has told a counter-terrorism conference in Canberra
he believes Australians are prepared to suffer some inconvenience to ensure the
nation's security is strengthened.

"There is a mature acceptance that we're living in a more
sober different world," he said.

"[Australians] don't want hysterical overreaction, they are
prepared as pragmatic people to accept reasonable inconvenience, reasonable
incursions on liberty and licence that they might otherwise have not
accepted."

The comments come after the US revised its international
terrorist advice, warning that Al Qaeda may try to hijack aircraft leaving
Australia to attack the United States.

Mr Howard says it was appropriate that the advice was corrected.

The US Department of Homeland Security is planning to issue a
revised alert to the airline industry.

Instead of naming Australia as a target, it will highlight the
country as a possible "point of origin" for terrorists planning to
hijack flights to attack the US or Britain.

And Mr Howard has reaffirmed the importance of the US-Australia
intelligence relationship, describing it is as a very mature, reliable alliance.

The Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, says it is unlikely
terrorists would try to hijack Australian aircraft bound for the United States.

"Now our judgement is that it's a long shot that someone
would come to Australia, hijack a plane and try to attack the east coast of the
United States," he said.

"There would be dozens of countries you could more easily
hijack a plane from to attack the east coast of the United States than
Australia."

The Federal Attorney-General, Daryl Williams, says it is
unfortunate the United States's initial warning was incorrect.

"I think it's regrettable that there was an error in the
Department of Homeland Security's original threat advisory but that has now been
corrected," he said.

"Australia has never been under any misapprehension in
relation to it."

Meanwhile, former leader of the Opposition Kim Beazley says in
the wake of the misunderstanding between Australia and the US over terrorism
warnings, the Government should employ more ASIO personnel.

He says he wants Australian forces focused on defending
Australia and its key approaches.

"If you overachieve in putting resources you don't need to
into our expeditionary activities, if you could do the job with what you have,
give or take a few adjustments, you can put the long-term security of your
people at risk," he said.

August 1, 2003

ABC News Online: http://abc.net.au/news/ 

 

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