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Asian, Australian Leaders Warn of More Terrorist Attacks - 2002-10-18

Leaders in Asia and Australia are warning of more terrorist attacks following the deadly bombings on the Indonesian island of Bali and in the Philippines. The warnings come as Indonesia prepares emergency legislation to crack down on suspected terrorists.

Malaysia's Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad is the latest Southeast Asian leader to voice concern over the terrorist attacks in the region.

During a visit to India Friday, Mr. Mahathir told reporters Malaysia could suffer the same kinds of attacks seen in Indonesia and the Philippines. Saturday, bombs killed at least 180 people on Bali and explosions in the southern Philippines killed seven Thursday.

"But Malaysia has a reputation for being able to handle its terrorist problems for a long, long time," the prime minister noted. "We have in fact taken measures very early to eliminate this possibility and I think that time will show that Malaysia is a safe and stable country."

The Malaysian leader says such attacks affect the entire region because it is impossible to know where they will occur next. As a result, he says he expects foreign investment will decline across Southeast Asia.

Australia's Prime Minister John Howard voiced similar concerns Friday after attending a memorial service for the victims of the Bali attacks, many of whom were Australian.

Mr. Howard told Sydney radio station 2-GB that the threat of new attacks has led his government to urge Australians to avoid travel to Indonesia and nine other countries in the region.

"It's very serious and that is why we have issued the upgraded the warning," Mr. Howard Said." I've heard the odd criticism that it might be going too far. Nothing is going too far in these present circumstances and it is unfortunately quite an unstable situation."

Britain and the United States have ordered non-essential embassy staff and dependents to leave Indonesia. They and the governments of Germany and Denmark have also urged their citizens to avoid travel to all parts of the archipelago.

The Indonesian government has responded to the Bali attack by drafting an emergency decree allowing it to crack down more easily on suspected terrorists.

Indonesian civil rights organizations worry the decree will roll back laws guaranteeing personal freedoms.

However, Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesman Marty Natalegawa Friday said the law will not erode civil liberties.

"We are trying to combat terrorism from the democratic pedestal. And now that we have this decree hopefully very soon and the Parliament is on very much board," he said. "They want us to act quickly and we will."

Southeast Asian governments have also responded to the threat of new attacks by tightening security around embassies, government buildings and tourist areas.