Commonwealth summit may be cancelled

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The Independent Online

The Commonwealth summit, due to be opened by the Queen in Brisbane next week, may be cancelled, the Australian premier said today.

John Howard said he was confident that security arrangements were adequate for a summit.

However, he said there still remained a risk of postponement if a number of national leaders pulled out due to the international response to the US terrorist attacks.

"If the number and influence of those who decide not to attend is such as to pose some threat to the value of the meeting, that may well cause the Secretary-general of the Commonwealth to have another view," Mr Howard said.

Prime Minister Tony Blair may be one of those to pull out because of the US terror attacks and it has been reported that Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott will take his place.

A handful of leaders, including Malaysia's Mahathir Mohamad, decided before the terror attacks not to attend.

Mr Howard said that senior minister this week received a comprehensive briefing from relevant agencies on security arrangements for the summit.

"There is no domestic security reason why that meeting should not take place, and it remains my hope that the meeting will take place," Howard told the Parliament.

The Queen and 45 leaders from Britain and its former colonies are due to attend the summit from October 6 to 9, in Brisbane, the Queensland capital.

Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer said he hoped the meeting would go ahead, not least because it would be an excellent opportunity to build support for the US offensive against terrorism.