Source AP ©

Crowd-control horses quarantined with flu in Sydney

Protesters planning to gather at next week's Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum said Wednesday that police should not resort to "heavy-handed" tactics after their crowd-control horses were placed in quarantine because of flu outbreak.

All 36 horses in Sydney's mounted police unit have been confined to their stables after eight showed symptoms of the virus on Tuesday. Police said the horses will remain isolated for 30 days after they recover.

The mounted police unit had been scheduled to help with security and crowd control at next week's APEC meeting in Sydney, where U.S. President George W. Bush is to meet with 20 other world leaders.

Alex Bainbridge from the Australia-based Stop Bush Coalition, which is planning at least two rallies next week, said the absence of horses would not affect the protesters' plans.

"We don't believe that police horses would ever be necessary for our protests," he said Wednesday. "We do call on the police not to compensate for the lack of horses by heavy-handed measures in other areas."

New South Wales state Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione conceded Tuesday that the loss of the horses would affect his officers' ability to deal with the protesters.

However, he said the 3,000 police on duty for APEC would be backed by additional resources, including a new water cannon capable of knocking protesters off their feet.

"We weren't, and will not be, reliant on one single option," Scipione told reporters. "We have prepared for a range of circumstances and are confident the appropriate plans are in place to deal with any violence."

State officials have announced strict security measures ahead of APEC, which runs Sept. 2-9.

Delegates at the meeting inside Sydney's Opera House will be protected by a 2.8-meter (9-foot) -high barrier, while a 5-kilometer (3-mile) fence will be erected around part of the city to control the flow of traffic and pedestrians around the area.

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