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Rising criticism of US security alert

Bush defends security alert. Hospital worker with anthrax infection dies.

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U.S. President George Bush has defended his decision to put the country on national security alert over the next week.

Responding to rising criticism that the warning was vague and alarmist, Bush said on Wednesday that he had issued it because the government had information that made it necessary to enhance protection of vulnerable areas and assets.

His statement came as public concern was stoked by the announcement that inhalation anthrax had killed a hospital worker in New York.

The White House said Wednesday that investigators still did not know who was responsible for the outbreak of anthrax that has now claimed four lives.

Halloween on Wednesday was a rather dubious affair. Normally an occaision for some macabre fun, Halloween festivities were dampened by the widespread anxiety following the September 11 terror attacks. This year, many people found it hard to join the spirit of the occaision.

In the past few days, officials have warned they have information that further attacks may be imminent. President Bush confirmed the threat.

"A couple of days ago, I put the county on alert for a reason. I wanted our law enforcement officials to know that we had some information that made it necessary for us to protect the United States' assets, to protect those areas that might be vulnerable. And that's exactly what's taking place today," George W. Bush, US-President said.

No-fly zones have been imposed on airspace over the country's nuclear reactors - some of which are now protected by the National Guard. Security has been stepped up at airports, train stations and shopping malls.

The Attorney General said a new task force was being set up to track terrorists in the US.

John Ashcroft, US-Justice Minister: "America will not allow terrorists to use our hospitality as a weapon against us."

As a further measure, Ashcroft said the number of immigration officers manning US borders would be doubled.

Treasure found under Trade Center rubble

In New York, workers have recovered some of the stocks of precious metals buried under rubble at the site of the World Trade Centre. Almost 200 million dollars worth of gold and silver was stored in vaults in the Bank of Nova Scotia building situated next to the twin towers. The building was largely destroyed in the September 11th attacks.

A US newspaper reported that salvage teams had cleared an underground tunnel through to the vaults. New York's mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, said most of the gold and silver appeared to have been recovered. The New York Mercantile exchange still has an estimated 240 million dollars worth of precious metals buried at the site.

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