New Zealand readies for smallpox

New Zealand has joined a growing list of overseas countries guarding against biological terrorism by importing the smallpox vaccine.

The Ministry of Health plans to bring in 10,000 doses by March, but officials say inoculations of the risky vaccine will be a last resort and prime minister Helen Clark has signalled she will not have one.

"We certainly would not be advising anyone to have the vaccine seeing as there is no reason for getting it there is no credible threat of smallpox," Doug Lush Ministry of Health said.

The health ministry's decision to buy the doses comes after US president George W Bush announced plans to vaccinate half a million military personnel, and himself.

"As commander in chief, I do not believe I can ask others to accept this risk unless I am willing to do the same. Therefore, I will receive the vaccine along with our military," Bush said.

In New Zealand, an infectious diseases committee made the decision to import the vaccine without telling the prime minister.

"My understanding is that the ministry believes that the threat of the virus being used in New Zealand is remote but they have made a decision and directors of public health do have statutory rights to make decisions," Clark said.

The move has brought criticism from national.

"What we're unhappy about is the fact the government doesn't seem to have a plan and doesn't seem to know what it's doing," Bill English, leader of the Opposition said.

The vaccine will be in the country by March and will only be made available if there is an attack.

The health ministry says it will be keeping the vaccine in secure locations around the country.

Terrorist Ahmed Zaoui Arrested As He Flys Into New Zealand

Secrecy still surrounds a man being held in New Zealand's most secure prison and suspected of international terrorist connections.

He is thought to be Ahmed Zaoui, an Algerian linked to attacks in Europe. Authorities have said little but his lawyer has spoken out. However lawyer Paul Coates said he could not say anything about the identity of the detainee. Many countries consider a man called Ahmed Zaoui to be a dangerous terorrist.

He has been accused of being the european leader of a militant islamic group called GIA, which claimed responsiblity for bombing the Paris underground in 1995.

Terrorism expert Jim Veitch says GIA is one of the groups that the US state department has listred as one of the terrorist organisations that he says they are not happy with. There are also reports he has been linked wth Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

However the supporters of Zaoui in New Zealand have said that he is in fact a freedom fighter being persecuted by the algerian regime in north africa. "This man is a peaceful man," said Wahib Zaza, a spokesman for the Algerian community. "He was involved in politics in a peaceful way, so we don't see where those allegations come from - except from the Algerian government."

The police and immigration service are trying to trace Zaoui's movements. In 1997 he was refused political asylum in Switzerland and went to live in the african nation of Burkina Faso. He then disappeared, until the mystery man with his name arrived at Auckland airport.

The man's lawyer has said that his client understands why he is causing such concern. "He also understands there are legal mechanisms under which he can be detained and has been detained," said Paul Coates. "Nobody is probably entirely happy [of] being deprived of their liberty, but that's the situation". The man can ben held in prison for 28 days from the time he was apprehended but authorities would not say exactly when the arrest occurred.

A spokesman for the Immigration Minister has confirmed that police and Interpol are working together on the case but refused to say where the detainee arrived from. The local Algerian community are planning to take their complaints to the Minister for Ethnic Affairs.

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A man considered to be a threat to national security was detained after arriving at Auckland International Airport.

The man is reported to be an Algerian, Ahmed Zaoui, with links to an Islamic terrorist group who has been condemned to death in his home country.

He is now inside the country's toughest jail, Auckland Prison at Paremoremo.

During the 1990s he was suspected of a series of terrorist bombings, but was never convicted.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel says the detained man poses a potential security threat.

She says a number of New Zealand agencies are now making inquiries to determine whether the man has a right to be in the country.

Under the Immigration Act the man can be held for 28 days while investigations are underway.

His lawyer confirmed his client had been detained under a warrant of commitment.

Immigration lawyer Paul Coates and an interpreter headed into Auckland Prison's maximum security wing on Friday afternoon.

The local Algerian community claims the man is a freedom fighter.

Zaoui is considered by many countries to be a dangerous terrorist, suspected of being the leader of the GIA an Islamic terror organisation blamed for the Paris Metro bombing in 1995, which claimed seven lives.

The Immigration Service won't reveal the identity of the man they're holding.

Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel says there is sufficent cause for concern to investigate.

Members of the local Algerian community are convinced the man is Ahmed Zaoui.

Some local Algerians say Zaoui is not a terrorist but a leader of the legitimate Algerian opposition movement, the FIS.

As such he is a hero to many who believe the group is Algeria's legitimate ruler.

"We can say openly this man is not a terrorist," says Algeria community spokesman Wahib Zaza.

With rumoured connections to a number of Islamic terror groups, Zaoui is too hot for many European nations.

He sought exile in Switzerland soon after the Paris bombing, but after two years was deported to the West African nation of Burkina Faso.

"If people like Zaoui are still alive or still active that means democracy... that mean always the regime in Algeria will be at risk," says Zaza.

It appears Zaoui is New Zealand's headache. Will he be deported as a terrorist or welcomed as a freedom fighter?

Dalziel says she can't speak about specifics because she doesn't want to undermine the investigation.

"I want these investigations to be thorough so that we are very clear about what we can do."

The man's lawyer is saying little.

Coates would only confirm he is acting for a man named Zaoui. He was ensuring Zaoui had access to legal representation and he said authorities were co-operating.

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