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Australia to Move Embassy in Philippines, Others May Follow - 2002-12-26

The Australian government will bolster security at its overseas embassies, and may move some missions away from high-risk locations. The embassy in Manila, which was the target of a terrorist threat, will be moved to a more secure location.

The security revamp at Australia's 80 missions overseas is the most comprehensive ever. The government says the project will focus on countries where the risk of a terrorist attack is considered to be high.

Australia's embassy in Manila will be relocated, and others elsewhere could be moved to safer premises. The Manila embassy has been closed for weeks because Australian authorities said they had received a threat of a terrorist attack.

Media reports in Australia suggest three missions in the Middle East and Southeast Asia also will be moved. There has been no confirmation from officials, but a Foreign Ministry spokesman has said security is always being reviewed. The moves reflect a growing nervousness in Australia that its strong support for Washington's policies in Afghanistan and Iraq has made the country a target for terrorists.

Analysts say the changes could turn Australia's embassies into mini-fortresses, along the same lines as U.S. embassies. The new measures include 24-hour surveillance, extra guards, shatterproof windows and tighter controls on traffic flow outside the buildings.

It is estimated that Australia's budget for embassy security has tripled to $18 million, as the country responds to increased uncertainty in the wake of a car bomb attack in Bali in October. At least 190 people were killed, almost half of them Australian tourists.

The government in Canberra has also confirmed it wants to expand its overseas spy agency, the Australian Secret Intelligence Service, to combat the threat of international terrorism.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer says, the fight against extremism would be won by intelligence agencies and not by military intervention.