Senior army officials from Sri Lanka and 19 nations hold secret talks in Australia

SYDNEY, Aug 14, 2007 (AFP) – Army chiefs from 19 countries, including the United States, Japan and India, met secretly in Sydney ahead of an Asia-Pacific summit in the city next month, the country’s army chief revealed Tuesday. The presence of the military leaders in Sydney, including US General George Casey, at the same time and at the same venue last week was considered too risky to publicise, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation said.

Australia’s Chief of Army, Lieutenant General Peter Leahy, told the ABC it had been judged better not to disclose the meeting, the fifth Pacific Armies Chiefs Conference, at the time.

“We were aware that there’s a lot going on in Sydney and we didn’t want to make a fuss,” Leahy said, in a reference to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in the city on September 8-9.

The summit will be attended by leaders of the 21 members of APEC, including the US, Russia, China and Japan, and Australia is preparing unprecedented security measures to protect them.

But Leahy said the security of the summit was not a particular item on the agenda of the army chiefs’ meeting.

“No, it was an internal conference and we were just sitting around in one of the nice hotels in