Extremist fight not over: French foreign minister

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French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the fight against extremism was not finished, condemning it as a "barbarian form of violence" at Australian commemorations Sunday of the September 11 attacks.

Juppe and Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd laid a wreath at the National War Memorial in Canberra to remember the thousands of people killed on this day ten years ago in the United States.

"The fight against terrorism is not finished. The threat is still there against our countries," Juppe said.

"The co-operation between our intelligence systems and services is (vital) to continue this fight against what is a most unacceptable and barbarian form of violence."

Rudd said the anniversary was a sobering reminder that an event like 9/11 "could easily have happened in Paris, it could easily have happened in Sydney.

"And it could still happen, which is why the price of freedom is eternal vigilance," he said.

"In France, Australia (and) our common ally the United States, we continue to maintain our vigilance," Rudd added.

Australia is a key partner in the US-led fight in Afghanistan, with a contingent of some 1,500 troops, and the anniversary reignited the debate about Canberra's commitment to the protracted war.

Defence Minister Stephen Smith said coalition forces had made progress in the war-torn country, having "denuded and degraded Al-Qaeda's capacity" but cautioned against withdrawing too early.

"Yes we've had some success in recent times, the death of Bin Laden was both significant and of practical effect, but we have to be ever vigilant and that applies not just to Afghanistan but generally," Smith told ABC television.

In June, Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australian troops would remain in Afghanistan until 2014 as planned despite the decision of the United States to bring 33,000 home next year.

Smith dismissed suggestions that Australia's involvement in Afghanistan had increased the risk of a homegrown terror plot.

"I don't believe there's a link there," he said.

The head of Australia's domestic spy agency, ASIO, said they were investigating more threats than ever before, raising the prospect of an Oslo-style attack by Australians "toying with the ideology of extremism".

"We do have a very small number of people in our midst whose intention are not necessarily all that benign," said ASIO chief David Irvine.

Attorney-General Robert McClelland said there had been four major plots foiled in Australia since 9/11 and 21 of the 38 people charged were Australians.

"So, if youre looking at the history, the major threat in Australia has been from the so-called home grown potential terrorists," McClelland told commercial television.

There was no "specific intelligence" of an attack on Australia at present, he added, though one was "certainly feasible".

But Smith said Australia had become more prepared for extremist acts in the past decade, responding to media reports that some Aus$30 billion had been spent on counter-terrorism in the period.

"When we are in the sure and certain knowledge that we're in the face of an international terrorist threat it's not the money that we spend -- it's the preventative measures that we take, and the effectiveness of those measures," he said.

"It may well be a very large amount of money, the key thing is are we better prepared, are we doing better, and has that money been well spent, and I think that we are much better prepared."

© 2011 AFP

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