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World - Europe

Security a concern at parliaments worldwide

Parliment
Those who cue up to watch Britian's Parliment in action do so under the friendly but watchful eyes of policemen  

In this story:

July 27, 1998
Web posted at: 10:00 p.m. EDT (0200 GMT)

(CNN) -- The shooting in the U.S. Capitol last week has ramifications around the world, where many legislative bodies are heavily guarded against possible attack.

The closest ordinary Russians get to the nation's Parliament is the front door. In France, only a limited number of people can get in to see their legislators at work.

Access is easier in Great Britain and Israel, but security is tight in all four nations.

In Israel, situated in the volatile Mideast, the public -- Israelis and visitors alike -- are admitted only with personal identification. They must pass through metal detectors and wear identity tags.

The visitors gallery is behind bulletproof glass, and there is constant scrutiny for anything suspicious.

British have seen Parliament violence before

In England, security is tight in and around the House of Commons. In 1979, the Irish Republican Army killed one of the government's top advisers with a bomb just outside the building.

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Only one in four British police officers ever touches a gun, but citizens and tourists must go through a range of modern security devices at the House of Commons, including searches and metal detectors.

However, the entrance to the House is only a few dozen yards from the chamber where lawmakers meet, and there's no guarantee that someone could not get through to the historic building.

"You can defend against conventional threats, things you might expect, given circumstances," said Peter Phelan of Kroll Associates, a security and risk management firm. "It's extremely hard to defend against the person who has no regard for his personal safety -- the suicide bomber in Israel, and indeed the attacker in the Capitol, who clearly was determined to enter carrying the weapon and was prepared to use it immediately,"

Russian lawmakers face threats from each other

In Russia, only government officials and accredited journalists are allowed in the Parliament, and they must pass through metal detectors manned by armed guards.

But that doesn't mean lawmakers are safe; there are threats both inside and out. Ultranationalist lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky is famous for attacking fellow lawmakers.

But the real threat to Russian deputies is on the streets of Moscow. Six deputies and more than a dozen aides have been murdered in the past five years. Most of the killings are related to outside business dealings, and almost all remain unsolved.

The Duma
At times the biggest threat to Russian lawmakers is themselves  

And just five years ago, Russian President Boris Yeltsin ordered tanks to fire on rebellious lawmakers who then met in the Russian White House. More than 100 people were killed.

French security is tight

When the French Parliament is in session, potential visitors must try to obtain a limited number of tickets. Again, visitors who are admitted must undergo stringent security checks.

Every Saturday, tours are arranged for up to 30 visitors who often have to book three months ahead. Every September, the government opens up for one weekend to allow visitors to view the various French government buildings.

But all they will see are empty halls and chambers; legislators are off on weekends.

Correspondents Richard Blystone, Steve Harrigan, Peter Humi and Jerrold Kessel contributed to this report.

 
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