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Last Updated: Wednesday, 1 October, 2003, 10:25 GMT 11:25 UK
Thailand downplays missile claim
Hambali
Hambali is said to have admitted plots to attack Bangkok
Thailand has played down reports of surface-to-air missiles being smuggled into the country ahead of a meeting of Asia-Pacific leaders later this month.

According to Thai press reports, an urgent search has been launched to find the six missiles concerned.

The reports sparked fears that the missiles could be used for terror attacks during October's Apec summit.

But Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said there was "nothing to be worried about".

"It is totally rumours about SAMs (surface-to-air missiles) being smuggled into the country," Mr Thaksin said, according to the Associated Press news agency.

Deputy Prime Minister Chavalit Yongchaiyudh also downplayed the newspaper reports.

He said that the Thai security agencies had received information about the missiles several weeks ago, and had found nothing amiss.

Security fears

Thailand is anxious to shore up its security ahead of the Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) summit which starts on 20 October.

A total of 21 world leaders, including US President George Bush, are due in Bangkok for the meeting.

Questions have already been raised about the safety of the delegates, amid fears that the Islamic militant group Jemaah Islamiah might target the meeting.

Alleged terror chief Hambali, who was captured in Thailand in August, is said to have admitted to planning attacks on targets in Bangkok.

Last week, Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra also confirmed that terrorists had plotted to attack an Israeli El Al airliner in the city.

Thailand has already announced huge security measures which will be in place during the summit, including fighter jets to escort visiting delegates and tens of thousands of police and troops.

Attention has particularly focused on Bangkok's international airport.

Security experts say the airport is a relatively easy target for surface-to-air missiles because of its location next to highways, homes and commercial properties.

A recent Singapore-based report claimed it was one of the most vulnerable airports in Asia.

During the summit, heavy vehicles and covered trucks will be banned from a elevated highway running parallel to the airport.

Despite the security fears, a spokesman for the US embassy in Bangkok said the American delegation would come to the Apec summit as planned.

"The US is very confident in all the security preparations conducted by the Thais," the spokesman told BBC News Online.




SEE ALSO:
China's yuan tops summit agenda
04 Sep 03  |  Business
World trade blocs: APEC
03 Sep 03  |  Business
'Bomb plot' against Apec summit
14 Jun 03  |  Asia-Pacific
Country profile: Thailand
24 May 03  |  Country profiles


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