Austria ‘ups anti-terror measures’

Safety measures to protect Austria’s political elite have been increased following the discovery of several mail bombs addressed to European leaders.Greek left-wing activists are suspected of having posted explosives addressed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.Terror experts have stressed that the attempted attacks were not in any way related to the recent package bombs which arrived in the United States after being shipped in from alleged terrorist hotbed, Yemen. The experts think the radical Greek leftists wanted to signal their disagreement with the harsh cost-cutting regime the debt-ridden country’s government has been ordered to carry out by the European Union (EU).Now reports have it that the security departments of Austria’s federal ministries have tightened their safety measures amid fears the country’s leaders could fall victim to attacks.Rudolf Gollia, a spokesman for the interior ministry, said today (Thurs): “We informed the offices of the chancellor and the vice chancellor that such packages might be on their way.”Gollia said the note was “not a warning”, adding that the ministries’ security chiefs have only been “sensitised”. The interior ministry official said there is no evidence that Austria is under increased danger.Government officials refused to confirm newspaper reports from today that they introduced higher safety standards checking incoming mail.Custom authorities and chiefs of security at Vienna International Airport (VIA) also remained tight-lipped over whether they have started to check cargo more carefully in a reaction to the recent incidents.Austria is not regarded as a main target of terrorists due to its constitutional neutrality. Federal capital Vienna is not considered at significant risk either – despite locating the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and one of the United Nations’ (UN) headquarters as well as a string of companies active in the Central and Eastern European (CEE) region.Austria joined the European Union (EU) in 1995 and will controversially take part in some of the EU’s so-called battlegroup (EUBG) military operations from next year. The neutral and independent state’s army currently participates in various peace-keeping operations around the world such as in the NATO-led Kosovo mission with an overall 1,100 soldiers.