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Australia reviews terror alert level after London bombings
Updated: 2005-07-08 09:29

Australian Prime Minister John Howard called an emergency meeting of his top counter-terrorism officials to evaluate the risk of Australia becoming a target following the deadly bombings in London.

Authorities in two Australian states boosted security measures around public transport after Thursday's attacks on the London transport system killed at last 37 people and wounded several hundred, including seven Australians.

But Howard said there were no immediate plans to lift the national terrorism alert level, which has stood at "medium" since the day after the September 11, 2001, attack on the United States.

"The advice from our experts who met last night was not to alter the medium level of alert that's been in place since the 12th of September 2001," he said on ABC radio from Sydney.

Howard said he was flying to the national capital, Canberra, later Friday to meet with his National Counter Terrorism Group, which brings together top officials from Australia's security, police and intelligence agencies.

Australia, like Britain, has been a steadfast ally of US President George W. Bush in the US-led war on Iraq, a stance seen as making the country a likely target of attack by Islamic militant groups like Al-Qaeda.

Howard said the timing of the London attacks, which coincided with a G8 summit of world leaders in Scotland, made it "hard to believe there's not some Al-Qaeda link".

But he said this would not diminish his government's commitment to remaining in Iraq, where some 900 Australian soldiers are deployed.

"I want to make it very plain that this kind of attack will not alter the attitude of the government of Australia towards terrorism and towards the commitments we have with our American, British and other friends to Iraq to Afghanistan," he said.

"People must understand that a country like Australia will not be bullied or intimidated and the people who believe we can are wrong," he said.

"It (the attack) will in fact steel the determination of people who recognise the threat that terrorism poses to democratic societies, to go on with the fight against terrorism."

Howard is due to visit Washington and London later this month for meetings with Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

Meanwhile authorities in the eastern states of Queensland and Victoria announced stepped-up security measures in response to the London blasts, including a boosted police presence on commuter trains in Melbourne, Australia's second biggest city.

Queensland state Premier Peter Beattie ordered the police major incident center in Brisbane to be placed on standby within hours of the London attacks.

"We don't want to alarm people," Beattie said.

"That's not what our intention is, but naturally when these things happen there is community concern and we want to simply say to the community while there are no absolute guarantees, a plan is in existence."

In Sydney, New South Wales state Premier Bob Carr said transport security measures had already been significantly boosted following the September 11 attacks and a 2002 bombing targeting Australian and other tourists in Bali.

"I think we've got the technology and we've got the police coordination that is required," said Carr, who was due to leave at the weekend for a scheduled trip to London.

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