3 foreign missions receive letters with white powder

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The French foreign mission in New York was one of three to have received letters with white powder, prompting the decontamination of employees.

NEW YORK - Authorities are investigating the nature of the substance, police said Tuesday.

The letters were received by the missions of Uzbekistan, Austria and France Monday between 4:01 and 6:31 pm, said Detective John Sweeney.

"Three letters were sent with white powder but they don't know what the powder is yet," Sweeney told AFP.

Authorities were testing the white powder to determine what it was, and at least one test came back negative, he said.

But in the meantime about 40 people at all three missions were decontaminated as a precaution, including 33 from the French mission, he said.

In 2001 letters containing anthrax killed five people in the United States and spread panic.

Since then, police and fire officers have been called out on thousands of occasions to investigate suspicious mailings -- most of them harmless.


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