U.S. official warns
South Pacific nations
of terrorism

WELLINGTON, New Zealand >> A remote South Pacific nation could be the scene for a Bali-style terror attack targeting Western tourists, a top U.S. counterterrorism official warned yesterday.

William Pope, principal deputy coordinator for counterterrorism at the U.S. State Department, said no region was too remote to be immune from such an attack, and urged South Pacific countries to tighten security at their borders and ports.

Island states with big tourism sectors are especially vulnerable to terrorism, Pope said.

"You can't be too remote anymore," he said on the sidelines of a three-day counterterrorism conference of 16 South Pacific nations in the New Zealand capital, Wellington, that ended yesterday.

He cited the Bali bombings as showing how a region that previously seemed free of terror threats can be targeted. Some 202 people died in the Bali bombings on Oct. 12, 2002. Several members of the regional terror group Jemaah Islamiyah have been convicted of carrying out the attack.

He added that al-Qaida remnants and Southeast Asian terror groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah make every region a possible target.

South Pacific island states like Fiji host more than 400,000 foreign tourists a year, while bigger states like New Zealand and Australia are visited by more than 2 million annually.

Pope said countries must make it tough for terrorists to get through their borders, to recruit members and to penetrate ports or airports, he said.

He added the conference also looked at the problems posed by airplanes landing and ships sailing into U.S. ports from South Pacific states, where security is often well below that in Western nations.

"There must be secure airports, secure runways and division of transit passengers from other passengers. ... It must happen," Pope said.

"You can't be remote enough for terrorists -- they don't care about human life," he said.


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