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Secrecy surrounds NZ's global terror meet

Quiet Queenstown is well known as a tourist attraction but less renowned for international intrigue  

Staff and wires

SYDNEY, Australia -- Top secret service and security agents from around the Western world converged on New Zealand over the weekend to discuss counter-terrorism, reports said Wednesday.

Among the delgates attending the international security summit held under extraordinary secrecy in Queenstown, in southern New Zealand, was the U.S. head of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the New Zealand Herald newspaper reported.

Government sources said around 20 senior officials from the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation, the CIA, Britain's MI6 and Australian and New Zealand spy agencies met at the luxury Millbrook resort near Queenstown on New Zealand's South Island.

Officials declined to reveal their agenda but the newspaper reported Wednesday that the meeting discussed counter-terrorism strategies and tactics.

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The summit only came to public attention after FBI director Robert S. Mueller III was seen boarding an unmarked Gulfstream 5 jet for Australia at Queenstown Airport.

Increased security at the airport was highly visible and visitors around the Millbrook resort were questioned, said the Herald.

'It might happen here'

Mueller flew to the Australian capital Canberra Tuesday and met conservative Prime Minister John Howard to brief him about security threats in the United States six months after the September 11 attacks on New York and Washington, Reuters news agency reported.

"He was able to brief me and my senior colleagues about the nature of the terrorist threat in the United States and around the world," Howard told Australian radio Wednesday.

"And whilst American circumstances are different from our own, it did serve to remind me that nobody should luxuriate in the false belief that it can't happen in Australia. It can happen in Australia. It might happen in Australia."

Australia has been a stalwart supporter of U.S. President George W. Bush's "war on terrorism" and the military campaign in Afghanistan that ousted the fundamentalist Taliban in punishment for harboring Osama bin Laden's militant al Qaeda network.

Around 150 elite Australian SAS troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, the bulk of them currently helping to root out al Qaeda remnants in the mountainous east of the country after a ferocious week-long battle.

Mueller spent only 24 hours in Australia before flying off in a U.S. Air Force Gulfstream jet.




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