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Security Heightened at US Facilities in Asia as Sept. 11 Anniversary Nears - 2002-09-10


The American embassies in Malaysia, Indonesia and Cambodia are closed ahead of the one year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States. U.S. diplomatic facilities are remaining open.

In the Philippines, fears over renewed threats to the U.S. and Israeli embassies were being called old news. Roilo Golez, the Philippine national security advisor, says security remains tight, as usual.

"This is not a new thing," he said. "We always secure vital installations and establishments."

In Manila, U.S. spokeswoman Karen Kelly says the embassy will remain open on Wednesday.

"We are aware the reports have come out in local press and over international press as well," she said. "Given the significance of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks we are going to continue to maintain our vigilance that we implemented since a year ago."

Operations are back to normal at the U.S. embassy in New Zealand, where mailroom personnel evacuated after discovering white powder, causing an anthrax scare. But the substance had leaked from a nutritional supplement and posed no threat.

The U.S. embassies in Malaysia and Indonesia are not taking chances. Both are closed until further notice on Tuesday. The decision was made after what embassy staff termed as "credible and specific terrorist threats." Memorial services to be held Wednesday commemorating those who died in the attacks were canceled.

Both Malaysia and Indonesia have sizable, but mostly moderate Muslim populations. However, over the course of the past year dozens of Islamic hard-liners with possible connections to the al-Qaida terrorist network have been arrested or questioned in both countries.

Southeast Asian nations have been eager to calm U.S. fears that the region is attracting terrorists fleeing the U.S. led anti-terrorism campaign in Afghanistan.

A month ago members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations signed an anti-terrorism accord with the United States. They pledge to share intelligence, block terrorist funding and tighten borders.

Many Asian countries have also introduced laws recommended by the United Nations to deal specifically with suspected terrorists and terrorist activity.

Few extra measures are being taken in airports across Asia. Airport personal in Hong Kong say security was increased earlier this month and no special measures are to be taken on Wednesday.

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