SYDNEY — AUSTRALIA, a member of the Gulf force, has begun to prepare for war in the Middle East. The government is stepping up security at airports, nuclear power plants, refineries, and United States and British businesses. Prime Minister Bob Hawke said Australia's antiterrorist forces had been ``alerted.'' Unlike Britain, however, Australia has not expelled any Iraqi citizens or diplomats.
On Thursday, the Australian government pulled its last three diplomats out of Baghdad. It also warned all Australian citizens to leave Iraq, Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Israel, Yemen, and parts of Saudi Arabia. In Saudi Arabia, 700 to 800 Australians are working on contracts.
This week Qantas Airlines rerouted its flights to Europe to avoid flying within 1,000 miles of the potential war zone. Qantas flights now are routed through Moscow.
Despite domestic criticism, Mr. Hawke continues to support the United Nations mandate. On Wednesday, Hawke told sailors leaving for the Gulf on the support ship HMAS Westralia, ``We all know the despair and tragedy of war, but we also know that this conflict can only be resolved if Saddam Hussein abides by the United Nations Security Council and leaves Kuwait.''
Even as Hawke spoke, peace protesters tried to prevent the ship from leaving the dock. The Westralia will relieve the HMAS Success which is helping to supply two Australian frigates and other ships operating in the Gulf. Peace protesters planned a demonstration in Sydney for noon on Jan. 15, the deadline day for Iraq to leave Kuwait. The Network for Peace, an amalgam of peace organizations, planned to place a half-page ad calling on Hawke not to ``commit Australia to war'' in today's Sydney Morning Herald and Australian. The group is also soliciting money to support the ``Gulf Peace Camp'' on the Saudi-Iraq border.
Many churches here are holding prayer services for peace. Last week over 1,000 people attended a Christian ecumenical prayer service at St. Andrew's Anglican church. And Rev. Clive Norton, the Convener of the Churches' Working Group for Peace, has called on all people to pray for peace each day at 6 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m.