Howard in YouTube call for calm at Apec summit

Australian Prime Minister John Howard used YouTube on Monday to sell an Asia-Pacific leaders summit in Sydney this week, ahead of expected protests against global warming and the Iraq war.

Organisers anticipate violent demonstrations at the Asia Pacific Economic Co-operation (Apec) summit, which will be attended by 21 leaders including United States President George Bush, and are staging the nation’s biggest ever security operation.

“There will be some individuals who want to protest against Apec,” said Howard in an address broadcast on YouTube.

“I simply ask them to stop for a moment and consider that if they really are worried about issues such as poverty, security and climate change, then they should support Apec and not attack it,” said Howard.

Green activists broke into an Australian power station in an Apec protest on Monday, forcing output to be reduced.

Four members of a group called “Real Action on Climate” chained themselves to a conveyor belt at the Loy Yang power plant in Victoria state, calling for an end to fossil fuel energy.

“This is the type of visionary action that the Asia Pacific economic forum is unable to take. Their non-committal, aspirational targets are completely inadequate to stop dangerous climate change,” said Michaela Stubbs, an activist spokesperson.

Howard has made climate change a major issue at Apec, but has ruled out Apec setting binding greenhouse gas reduction targets, prefering instead “aspirational targets” for each nation.

“The big thing about Apec ... is that it brings together in a manageable sized forum ...
the three biggest polluters in the world—Russia, America and China,” said Howard.

“I believe this year’s Apec meeting can make a difference where it matters—developing ideas and putting the region’s full weight behind a truly global response,” he said.

“We need to find ways to address the problem while allowing countries like China and Indonesia to continue to grow and prosper,” Howard said.

Green groups and Australia’s Labour opposition say Apec will be a failure if it does not set greenhouse targets.

Australia and the United States are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, arguing its binding greenhouse targets are flawed as major polluters, like India, are excluded from the protocol.

Violent protests

Media reports that a manual for violent protests was being circulated by protesters vindicated the major Apec security operation, said authorities.

“There is very likely to be violent protests,” said New South Wales state deputy premier John Watkins.

“If there is anti-social, criminal or violent behaviour the police will move in strongly and they will make arrests.”

Authorities have erected a 5km security fence across the central business district to isolate the leaders in the Sydney Opera House and nearby hotels.

Fighter aircraft and police helicopters are enforcing a 45-nautical-mile restricted air space over Sydney and will intercept any unauthorised aircraft. A total of 5 000 police and troops are patrolling the city centre.

Local media reported that three German tourists were forced by police to delete digital photographs of the security fence.

“There is some concern amongst police that some of those protesters who are coming ... will look for weak points in the fence,” said Watkins.

“One of the things they are doing is a recce of the fence to find where they can attack it.”

The first leader to arrive in Australia is Chinese President Hu Jintao, who lands in Western Australia state on Monday where he is expected to be greeted by a Falung Gong candlelight protest against human rights abuses in China.

Bush arrives in Sydney on Tuesday night and protesters plan a rally at Sydney’s Town Hall, with the major Apec protest march scheduled for Saturday, the first day of the leaders summit. - Reuters

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