Half of Australian capital’s police to guard torch: official

SYDNEY, April 21, 2008 (AFP) – More than half the police force in Australia’s capital Canberra will guard the Olympic torch when the troubled relay arrives in the city this week, officials said Monday. Security has been beefed up for Thursday’s run, which is expected to attract hundreds of pro-Tibet demonstrators angry at China’s treatment of the Himalayan region as well as thousands of supporters of Beijing’s hosting of the Games.

Steel barriers have been set up along Canberra’s streets for the 16 kilometre (10 mile) route that runs past Parliament House and near the Chinese embassy.

Canberra police chief Michael Phelan said more than half the Australian Capital Territory’s officers, backed by Australian Federal Police and officers from interstate, would participate in the security effort.

“A fair percentage of our people (ACT police) will be used, at least half of them,” Assistant Commissioner Phelan told reporters without giving a figure.

The territory’s police force is believed to number between 700 and 1,000.

Phelan said he was confident that the relay, which has become the subject of large security operations around the world after protesters in London and Paris disrupted