- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 19, 2003

AUSTRALIA

Spy chief concedes failure in Bali bombing

SYDNEY — The head of Australia’s lead spy agency said yesterday that his organization failed to detect the danger of Islamic radicals in Indonesia before they carried out a car bombing in October that killed about 200 people, including 88 Australians.

Dennis Richardson, director of the Australian Security and Intelligence Organization, told senators that his agency identified the danger of the group Jemaah Islamiyah too late to prevent the bombing of tourist nightclubs on the island of Bali.

“The intelligence failure in Bali was the failure to identify the transition of Jemaah Islamiyah some time after 1996 into a terrorist organization,” Mr. Richardson said.

CAMBODIA

ASEAN forum eyes counterterrorism role

PHNOM PENH — Ten years after its birth, the ASEAN Regional Forum has developed into the region’s top official security mechanism, but participants want it to focus more sharply on military cooperation and counterterrorism.

The 23-member forum, meeting here this week, was set up by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which brought in all the big powers — the United States, Russia, China, Japan, the European Union and India — to discuss regional security issues.

But it has also become a mechanism for Western powers to raise sensitive country- or region-specific political issues that threaten security in the broad sense. “Countries have achieved a high comfort level in discussing matters which previously were considered sensitive,” Singaporean Foreign Minister S. Jayakumar said.

FIJI

Ex-strongman Rabuka gains electoral support

SUVA — Former military coup leader Sitiveni Rabuka appears to be a strong prospect for election amid uncertainty about the fate of the current government, which is facing a court challenge.

Oddly for the man whose first of two military coups in 1987 was to end an Indian-dominated government, his support is also growing among ethnic Indians, who make up about 44 percent of the Pacific nation’s 800,000 people.

Weekly notes …

Taiwan’s first attendance at a World Health Organization conference in 30 years sparked political bickering back home after an opposition politician accepted a separate invitation that implied the self-governing island belongs to China. Taiwan hailed the invitation to the conference on severe acute respiratory syndrome in Malaysia this week as a diplomatic coup, but the unexpected invitation of an opposition lawmaker — at China’s request — deepened the rift between those supporting closer ties with the mainland and those urging independence. … A Japanese photographer apologized to his nation yesterday as he arrived home after being released from prison in Jordan after a royal pardon for causing a fatal bomb blast at Amman’s airport. Hiroki Gomi, 36, a photojournalist with the mass-circulation Mainichi Shimbun, first apologized to the family of Ali Sarhan, the security guard killed in the blast, and survivors of the explosion. The blast was caused by a cluster bomblet that Mr. Gomi was bringing home in his baggage as a memento from Iraq, where he covered the U.S.-led war.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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