Australians demonstrate against Iraq strike as security posts black alert
Melbourne: The threat of a second Gulf War has sparked protests in Australian cities this weekend admits reports that Australia had been placed on a "black alert" security.
In Sydney around 1,000 people demonstrated outside the United States consulate in the city, condemning the US for its aggressive stance against Iraq to protest against the use of Australian troops in any military strike against Iraq.
The protests came from a wide range of left wing group but also included speakers from Pax Christi, Save the Children of Iraq and Sydney's Muslim community. Mustafa Al-Hamudine, from the Arab Peace Coalition, was among the speakers calling for a peaceful solution to be found. The demonstrators said the Iraqi people are not the enemy of the Australian people
"'Give peace a chance, give peace a chance'," Mr. Al-Hamudine told the gathering. "And all together wish and pray for all our different religions, for Mr. Kofi Annan to be successful in his diplomatic mission to Iraq and save the Middle East from a war no-one will know how it will end."
A spokesman said the Prime Minister's decision to send groups to Iraq is splitting the Australian community and causing the sort of anti-Arab feeling seen during the Gulf War. Saturday's protest is a forerunner to a much larger one planned next week.
In Melbourne on Friday evening around 500 people demonstrated against Australian involvement in a US strike against Iraq. At the GPO speakers included noted labor activists including former MLC Joan Coxsedge, former Senator Bill Hartley and current Trades hall Council Secretary Leigh Hubbard.
The protest then marched through the city to the top end of the town
and further speakers from a wide range of organisations including
the Australian Arabic Council, ISO, Campaign against Militarism, Green
Left and the South Movement made speeches from the steps of the Victorian
A spokesperson for the P.A.W.I. said Australaia wide contingency plans for emergency demonstrations in Australian cities forthe day the US attack begins were as follows:
5pm Parliament House steps
Meanwhile Prime Minister Howard has postponed his planned visit next week, to Malaysia and Papua New Guinea because of the possibility of military action against Iraq. Mr. Howard said crucial decisions regarding the situation in Iraq could be made this week, following the visit to Baghdad by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan. Howard cancelled the important trip to Malaysia and Papua New Guinea less than 24 hours before he was scheduled to leave.
Mr. Howard said yesterday the trip had been postponed indefinitely. The cancellation and reports that Australia had been placed on a "black alert" security: level heightened speculation that an outbreak of hostilities with Iraq was imminent. Government sources said a black alert was the second highest national security level behind a "red alert".
Government sources said the most recent briefings from Washington to the Prime Minister and the Department of Foreign Affairs had advised Mr. Howard to postpone the trip.A spokesman for Attorney-General Daryl Williams refused to confirm or deny whether there was a "black security" alert on federal ministers.
Black Alert is a term coined by intelligence agencies to enact a range of security protocols across Australia and overseas. The alert status prevents federal ministers travelling overseas and requires the execution of a range of heightened security arrangements. These include increased security for Australian ambassadors overseas and the upgrading of security at points of entry into the country, including shipping ports and airports.
The alert involves the Defence Force, ASIO, ASIS and state counter terrorist squads, including Special Operations Group police. The alert status, set by the Australian Defence Force, is enacted when it is believed there is an impending danger of a terrorism attack or when Australian troop engagement is expected.
The alert sees the Army SAS "ready for action" and involves intelligence agents overseas monitoring movements of any visitors, particularly those who travel from Middle East to Asian countries and then on to Australia. A counter-terrorist expert said that because of the Iraqi standoff, ASIO agents will now monitor Islamic groups in Australia.
Washington: This week, the US secretary of state, defense secretary and ambassador to the United Nations heard from anti-war protesters. On Saturday, it was President Clinton's turn.
Around 10,000 people marched about a mile through city streets to the front gates of the White House, protesting a possible military action against Iraq. Although peaceful, the protesters were vocal in their point: ``Do not bomb Iraq'' said the banner leading them. ``No more war'' was their chant.
The size of Saturday's protest, which stretched 3 1/2 blocks long at one point, surprised passersby. ``It's more than I expected,'' said Laura Wray who had to stop her jog because protesters were filing down Connecticut Avenue. ``I guess I didn't realize how strongly people felt about it.''
The president, who was inside meeting with members of his national security team, did not acknowledge the crowd. US Park Police arrested six people for demonstrating without a permit, but said the crowd was otherwise orderly.
It was the first time that the anti-war protest has been taken to the White House gates. National Security Adviser Sandy Berger, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary William Cohen and U.N. Ambassador Bill Richardson heard from protesters last week as they fanned out across the country to ready the public for attacks on Iraq.
One of the marchers, actor Kyle Secor, star of the NBC series ``Homicide,'' said he could no longer remain silent. ``I watched all this play out on the TV for a few weeks, but now I think we have to take action if we're going to stop the killing of a lot of innocent people,'' Secor said.
On Friday hundreds of students drowned out Richardson with chants during his breakfast speech to a foreign policy forum at the Humphrey Institute at the University of Minnesota. The demonstrators, chanted: ''One, two, three, four, we don't want your racist war,'' ``No blood for oil'', and ``Clinton, Richardson you can't hide, sanctions are genocide.'' Richardson had to cut short his speech.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, Defense Secretary
William Cohen and President Clinton's national security adviser Sandy Berger
were heckled and grilled by students at an international town meeting at
a university gymnasium in Columbus, Ohio.
Italians to shield Iraq
Rome: Italian are travelling to Iraq this weekend to act as human shields against any air strikes said on Friday they hoped their mission would prevent Italy from backing military action.
22 Italian pacifists, eight women and 14 men, will fly to Baghdad to position themselves as human shields.``Today, we have sent a letter to Prime Minister Romano Prodi explaining our motives,'' Fabio Alberti, a member of the Italian peace group ``A Bridge for Baghdad,'' told a news conference at the organisation's tiny headquarters in central Rome.
``Our presence should render Italy's participation impossible,'' he said. Italian Prime Minister, Romano Prodi, says the United States cannot begin warfare from Italian territory without permission. His government is a coalition, which relies on the support of the refounded Communists and they strongly oppose U-S military intervention in Iraq. The communist leader, Fausto Bertinotti, says the government will break down if there is any Italian complicity with a military operation.
``A Bridge for Baghdad'' is sending two groups of around 20 volunteers each to Iraq to act as human shields at key civilian facilities such as power stations, water works, bridges, schools and hospitals. The first group will travel to Baghdad via the Jordanian capital of Amman on Sunday. The second group will replace them on March 1.
Alberti said most of the volunteers would be based in Baghdad but he hoped some would be granted permission to travel to Basra where the organisation runs a children's' hospital. The volunteers join members of the U.S. pacifist group ``Voices in the Wilderness.''
``We plan to build a peace tent together in front of the U.N. headquarters
in Baghdad,'' Alberti said. .
Farrakhan rushes home
Chicago: The leader of the Nation of Islam Louis Farrakhan cut short his 50 nation tour to rush home to stop a US attack on Iraq describing US policy in the Gulf as "insane".and "There's a better way for this great superpower to behave itself.
"I will not have the blood of American soldiers or the Iraqi people on my hands." He said Friday, "I have come back at a critical time, a time when our nation is suffering a crisis of leadership. America in my humble judgement is suffering from a spiritual darkness.
"Remember, President Clinton, God has put you in this position to try to see how you will act. You have the power of life and death over Iraq and the nations of the world and so does Allah have the power of life and death over you."
Min. Farrakhan believes that America is "too great a power to use her awesome might to make an example of Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi people" in an effort to frighten other world leaders and nations into thinking that they must please the American administration, according to a source in the Muslim leader's World Tour delegation.
He further warned President Clinton the Muslim world could turn
against America if it bombs Iraq."I know the thinking of a Muslim for I
am a Muslim," Mr Farrakhan said. "There are times in human life when people
would rather die than suffer the indignities of a bully or a great power..you
don't want the Muslim world against America.
US Anthrax Provocation Thwarted
Las Vegas: Former CIA bio weapons researcher who has accused Iraq of attempting to launch a biological attack on the American mainland has been arrested for attempting a biological attack himself.
Microbiologist Larry Wayne Harris, from Ohio, is already on probation for receiving a vial of deadly bubonic plague bacteria in the mail under false pretenses. According to press reports, he has made threats in the past about sending deadly materials through the mail.
Harris is a former ``lieutenant'' in the Aryan Nation, a white supremacist group, and a former follower of Christian Identity, an anti-Semitic and anti-black religious movement. He is said to be trained by the US Army at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds in Maryland and performed R&D for the CIA for six years at the Coshocton Agricultural Research Lab in Ohio.
Harris has just self published a book "Bacteriological Warfare: A Major Threat to America." in which he fictionally claims that in 1991, while he was attending an advanced course in microbiology he chanced upon an Iraqi woman in the course who told women who had been trained to smuggle ampoules of anthrax and bubonic plague into the United States inside their body cavities .
In background information in the affidavit, the FBI said that last summer Harris described plans for the New York attack. "Harris told a group of plans to place a 'globe' of bubonic plague toxins in a New York subway station, where it would be broken by a passing subway train, causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. Harris stated that the Iraqis would be blamed for that event.''
The affidavit added: "Harris had stated that the New York subway attack would ruin the economy and take the military by surprise.'' Also arrested was William Levitt Jr., a part-time resident of Las Vegas.
The two men were charged Thursday with possessing the deadly germ anthrax for use as a weapon. The FBI said one bragged in Las Vegas he had enough to ``wipe out the city''and last year laid out a plan to unleash bubonic plague on New York City subways.
Both men were seized Wednesday night outside a suburban Las Vegas medical clinic after the FBI received a tip that their car contained the deadly biological agent, anthrax. Their beige Mercedes, sealed in plastic, was hauled off to a military base for tests to confirm whether the material carried inside was the germ warfare agent.
An informant said one of the men told him he had ``military grade anthrax'' in flight bags in the trunk of the Mercedes, according to an FBI affidavit. The informant said he saw eight to 10 bags marked ``biological'' in the trunk.
In Las Vegas, FBI agent Bobby Siller told a news conference that tests still had to be conducted to determine if anthrax or some other dangerous substance was in the men's car.Siller also declined comment on a possible motive and added, ``There was no indication of what the target might have been.''
He added, "there is no evidence of any contamination anywhere in the community. ...It is our belief that they were taking these chemicals there (to the clinic) to conduct some kind of test. ...Obviously some very serious consequences could have happened.'' He said he had been briefed by Attorney General Janet Reno on the arrests and would continue ``to monitor the situation.''
The affidavit said a confidential informant called the FBI Wednesday to say he was a research scientist and had been contacted by Harris and Leavitt, who asked him to use some of his equipment to test vials of the bacterium Bacillus anthracis, which causes anthrax. Over the next 12 hours, the informant kept in touch with the FBI and at least one phone call was tapped. The document outlined a meeting of Harris and Leavitt with another man at the Gold Coast Hotel.
Defense Department spokesman Ken Bacon said the FBI asked for military experts to come to the scene when the material was found. He said four Army specialists and a lab technician from a hazardous materials ``Technical Escort Unit'' at the Army's Dugway Proving Ground in Utah were sent to the scene.
"These are people who are trained to deal with chemical or biological
agents. They have the proper clothing and material for dealing with it.
They know how to put it into special canisters that can be used to ship
it to a lab, so it can't break open in shipment,'' Bacon told reporters.
Annan extends Iraq visit
Baghdad: U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, starting a crucial peace mission to Baghdad, met Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz Friday and agreed to stay on until Monday, Annan's spokesman said.
"The secretary-general will stay over Monday,'' Fred Eckhard told a news conference in Baghdad. He said Aziz had asked Annan to stay one day longer than planned to discuss the oil-for-food deal under which Iraq is currently allowed to sell $2 billion worth of oil to pay for essential food and humanitarian items every six months.
The Security Council Friday passed a new resolution that would more than double permitted oil sales to $5.256 billion, but the plan does not take effect until Annan approves an Iraqi plan for how the goods would be distributed.
"The secretary-general agreed to stay on an extra day to discuss the oil-for-food program,'' Eckhard said. He said Annan had been encouraged by Iraq's cooperation with a U.N. technical team that mapped eight so-called "presidential sites'' earlier this week.
"The secretary-general sees the level of cooperation that the government gave to the technical team as significant so in a sense we are off to a good start,'' Eckhard said.
He said Annan still faced a difficult task in defusing the standoff between Iraq and the United Nations. "He does not have a lot of wriggle room,'' he said. "The talks are very sensitive. This is high politics.
Annan said on arrival in Baghdad earlier Friday that he had a "sacred
duty'' to try to reduce international tension and was "reasonably optimistic''
that his mission would succeed.