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Security Heightened as 2003 Crosses Asia - 2002-12-31

Cities in Asia geared up for the arrival of the New Year by tightening security in areas were revelers gather. Police in Australia and Indonesia are taking extra precautions against the threat of terrorist attack. Authorities in Sydney, Australia, prepared for New Years' festivities by adding extra bomb and dog squads to the already heightened security presence around Sydney Harbor.

While police say they have not received any specific threats, Australia has been on alert over the past month after intelligence uncovered terrorist threats. The threats follow the October terror attack on the Indonesian island of Bali, which killed close to 200 people, including at least 90 Australian tourists.

Investigators suspect Islamic militants were responsible for that attack, including some with ties to the Jemaah Islamiyah group. The Southeast Asian group has been linked the al-Qaida terror network. Experts say the masterminds of the Bali bombing specifically targeted tourists.

The attacks sent shock waves through Asian cities with large communities of Western expatriates. Allan Zeman owns of a number of nightspots in a Hong Kong entertainment district popular with expatriates and Hong Kong youths. He says extra undercover security will monitor celebrations Tuesday night.

"A week after the Bali incident, we happened to be putting on a carnival and everyone was really nervous," recalled Mr. Zeman. "But what the police normally do is, they monitor who's coming into the area. We also have about 50 of our own security who are in plainclothes, just mingling with the crowds looking for anything suspicious."

Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri will welcome in the New Year in Bali, a gesture of support for the island, which has seen its tourism industry plunge since the October attack. Authorities are deploying thousands of police to the island's tourist districts.

Nationwide, Indonesia will deploy about 180,000 security personnel, with a special watch on entertainment spots. Police last week guarded churches during Christmas festivities, which this year passed without incident. A series of bomb attacks at churches two years ago left 19 dead.