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Friday, 29 November, 2002, 12:43 GMT
Philippines hits out at embassy closures
A building security detail mans his post by the door leading to the Canadian Embassy at Makati city, east of Manila
Australia's and Canada's missions are shut indefinitely
The authorities in the Philippines have criticised Australia and Canada for closing their embassies in the capital, Manila, with little warning.

Both countries closed their embassies indefinitely on Thursday amid fears of "imminent" attacks from militant Islamic groups.

Australian ambassador to the Philippines, Ruth Deach
Ruth Deach: Manila was given due notice of closure
But the Philippines National Security Adviser, Roilo Golez, said on Friday that officials in Manila doubted the credibility of the embassies' intelligence.

Several governments in South-East Asia have criticised the terror warnings issued by Western governments since the bombing on Bali last month.

Fears of new attacks in the region have intensified since the blast, which killed nearly 200 people.

'Unfriendly' move

Mr Golez said he had complained to officials at the Australian and Canadian embassies.

"I told them that was not the act of a friendly nation, it was not a friendly act," he said.

But the Australian ambassador, Ruth Pearce, told a news conference that the authorities had been told in advance about her country's plans to close its embassy.

After meeting the Australian and Canadian ambassadors, the Philippine Foreign Secretary, Blas Ople, also criticised the two countries for not sharing their information about any possible threat.

Mr Ople is scheduled to meet foreign diplomats on Monday to discuss intelligence and security co-ordination.

Philippine officials have said they will tighten security around embassies.

Malaysian arrest

Authorities across the region have been clamping down on suspected Muslim militants since the Bali attack.

On Friday, Malaysian police said that earlier this week they arrested one of the few significant members of the regional militant group Jemaah Islamiah who is still at large in the country.

They say he is not linked to four alleged militants arrested in Malaysia on Wednesday, three of whom are reported to be part of a suicide bomb squad which allegedly planned an attack on Western embassies in Singapore last December.

Police hope he will provide a lead to higher-ranking fugitives, including the Malaysian man known as Hambali - believed to be JI's operation chief, and suspected of having links with al-Qaeda.

Hambali was the head of a religious school in southern Malaysia in the 1990s, where one of the detained Bali suspects, Imam Samudra, was a teacher.

Another suspect under arrest, Amrozi, was a student there.

Hambali is believed to have been replaced as the head of JI's South-East Asia operation by one of Amrozi's bothers - a man known as Mukhlas, according to the officer in charge of the Bali bombing investigation, General I Made Mangku Pastika.

Indonesia's Defence Minister, Matori Abdul, told the Associated Press on Friday that he was "convinced" that Imam Samudra and Amrozi were not acting alone.

Mr Matori said the complexity and sophistication of the Bali bombings "convinces me that the group behind this is al-Qaeda".

Police say both Imam Samudra and Amrozi have admitted involvement in the bombing although neither has yet been charged.

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See also:

28 Nov 02 | Asia-Pacific
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31 Oct 02 | Asia-Pacific
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