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Australian State Leaders Predict APEC Chaos for Sydney

The government of the Australian state of New South Wales has predicted that the APEC summit in Sydney in September will cause misery for thousands of residents. State leaders have said the aggravation will not be worth the effort and insist that the three-day meeting of some of the world's most powerful leaders should be held in the Australian capital, Canberra. Phil Mercer reports from Sydney.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation - or APEC - forum here in Sydney will attract hundreds of dignitaries and 21 world leaders, including U.S. President Bush.

The three-day summit in early September will pump millions of dollars into the local economy.

But it also is generating plenty of political disagreement.

The New South Wales state government is not keen to host this high-profile event.

State officials are worried that the lives of thousands of residents and commuters will be disrupted by tight security measures and road closures.

Earlier this year there was chaos is central Sydney - Australia's biggest city - during a visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.

There was traffic gridlock as the city's famous harbor bridge was closed to allow Cheney's motorcade to cross.

State Transport Minister John Watkins says APEC will cause even more problems.

"It's Dick Cheney multiplied by 50," he said. "APEC will provide nothing tangible to the good people of Sydney and the business community of Sydney."

The New South Wales leadership has said it wished the APEC summit would be held in Canberra, the national capital, instead of Sydney.

That view met with an astonished response from Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

"This will be the most prestigious gathering of world leaders ever in Australia and is the New South Wales government saying that Australia's biggest and most international city can't handle that? These are the economies of our region - the Asia-Pacific region, which is our future, and

small-minded, retreating New South Wales is saying 'we can't handle it?'"

Some business leaders in Sydney have expressed their concerns, too.

Many shops and offices in downtown areas may have to close during the conference.

Workers in Sydney, however, are happy. They will enjoy an extra day off. A public holiday has been called at the start of the APEC meeting.

The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum is a grouping of nations bordering the Pacific Ocean, which are working toward greater free trade.

Its 21 members include China, Russia, the United States, Japan and Australia. APEC accounts for more than 47 percent of the world's trade.