Sun, Feb 20, 2005 - Page 5 News List

Clinton, Bush tour amid warning

TERROR ALERT As former US Presidents Clinton and Bush toured southern Thailand, the Australian government urged its nationals in the disaster-hit area to leave forthwith

AFP , PHUKET, THAILAND AND SYDNEY

Former US Presidents George Bush, right, and Bill Clinton yesterday greet Thai people and US volunteers during their visit to Baan Nam Khem in Phang Nga Province, southern Thailand.

PHOTO: EPA

Former US presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush toured parts of southern Thailand yesterday on the first stop of their tour of Asian nations hit by December's catastrophic tsunamis.

Meanwhile, foreign aid workers helping tsunami relief efforts in Indonesia could be the target of terrorist attacks, Canberra warned in a travel advisory yesterday.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said his country had received intelligence its nationals could come under fire in Aceh and Northern Sumatra.

"New information [has been] received by the government concerning possible terrorist planning for attacks against foreigners involved in relief efforts in Aceh or other areas of northern Sumatra," Downer said in a statement.

"The government is working closely with Indonesian authorities and other governments involved in the relief effort to address this new threat information.

"The government is keeping the security situation in Aceh under close review and new information will be brought to the attention of the public through my department's travel advice."

The official advice said Australians should only travel to Aceh to help the post-tsunami relief effort if they were working with a recognised aid organization which had coordinated security with Indonesian authorities.

It said Australians not involved in the relief effort should leave the region.

Australia has about 1,000 military personnel and numerous civilians involved in the massive aid effort

The Australian military are unarmed and rely on their Indonesian counterparts for protection.

The former US leaders touched down shortly after noon at Phuket and were greeted by Thai Foreign Minister Surakiart Sathirathai.

They then traveled to the devastated fishing village of Baan Nam Khem to assess reconstruction efforts in Thailand's hardest-hit province of Phang Nga.

Clinton and Bush, appointed by US President George W. Bush to head private fundraising efforts following the tsunami, are also set to visit Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Maldives from today.

Nearly 5,400 people were killed in Thailand when the giant waves struck on Dec. 26. Roughly half of the dead are believed to be foreign tourists who were spending holidays on the country's famous beaches.

Some 3,000 people are still missing, and thousands more lost their homes and livelihoods.

A massive international forensics operation is still underway in southern Thailand to identify all of the dead.

Bush and Clinton were to pay their respects for the victims during a ceremony later yesterday, and to meet with Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.

Clinton, a Democrat who defeated the elder Bush in 1992 elections and was succeeded by the Republican's son eight years later, has been named the UN's special envoy for tsunami relief.

The White House has placed former President Bush in charge of efforts to raise private US aid for nations devastated by the tsunami that ripped through the Indian Ocean, killing nearly 289,000 people, most of them in Indonesia.

Clinton and Bush regularly appear in television advertisements requesting donations for the hundreds of thousands made homeless by the tsunamis, which were triggered by a massive undersea earthquake off the coast of Sumatra.

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