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Ridge: Security for Republican Convention 'Strong and Comprehensive' - 2004-08-25

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary, Tom Ridge, says local police and federal security officials are ready for the upcoming Republican National Convention in New York. The city has invested millions of dollars in new emergency vehicles and state-of-the-art surveillance equipment to protect against a possible al-Qaida-led terrorist attack.

Mr. Ridge rang the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange and visited with top city and state officials to review security preparations for the convention. Afterward, he told reporters that New York City is ready.

"I can tell you that the security plans are strong and comprehensive and as well coordinated as any we have had around any event," he said. "Federal state and local officials are working hard, and they are working together around the clock to ensure that absolutely nothing is left to chance. We are prepared."

Mr. Ridge visited New York earlier this month, shortly after intelligence information indicated a possible al-Qaida plot and led officials to raise the terror threat level around financial buildings in the area. Wednesday, he praised the response of security officials to the last alert, and noted that elaborate plans to protect the Republican National Convention began 18 months ago.

"New York tragically is too familiar with the dark destruction of al-Qaida," he added. "And New Yorkers as well as convention participants are resolved to never see that horror in this city or any city again. And they are equally committed and equally resolved to go forward with an event that so deeply reflects our democratic ideals."

Mr. Ridge says air and coast guard patrols will combine with extra street police and high-tech surveillance equipment to protect the city during the high-profile event. Some 5000 Republican delegates will be in town to nominate President Bush for another term, and organizers estimate 250,000 protestors are planning to demonstrate.

New York Governor George Pataki said that's what democracy is about.

"We're going to see the American political process at its best, where people from across the country come here to nominate a candidate for the presidency of this country," said Mr. Pataki. "I've had people, as I've been around the country, say, 'Should I come here the week of the convention?' The answer is, unequivocally, yes."

An estimated $50 million from the Federal government has been spent to bolster security around the city for the convention, which is scheduled to begin August 30.