Flights around Statue of Liberty and other sites banned for Fourth


THE US: The United States has banned flights around New York's Statue of Liberty and two other US landmarks during the July 4th Independence Day holiday, to protect revellers from potential terrorist attacks, US officials said yesterday.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ban came in response to a request from the National Park Service, which singled out Missouri's Gateway Arch, South Dakota's Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Statue of Liberty.

They were selected as highly visible landmarksand have "big Fourth of July celebrations that draw hundreds of thousands of people," according to a Park Service spokesman, Mr David Barna.

While the decision was not made in response to any particular threat, the sites' high visibility as national landmarks "makes them more susceptible to terrorist attack," Mr Barna said. "Basically, all flying is banned within a short distance of these locations," an FAA spokesman, Mr William Shumann, said.

Mr Shumann said the ban on flights within a one-nautical-mile radius of the Statue of Liberty began on Tuesday and will continue until September 30th.

At the Gateway Arch, the ban on air traffic within a three-nautical-mile radius is in effect for July 4th only, while at Mount Rushmore a four-nautical-mile restriction extends from July 3rd to July 5th.

"Putting in a TFR, a temporary flight restriction, is common - both before and after 9/11," Mr Shumann said, referring to the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.

He said there has been a TFR in effect around Washington "for months". And he added that the Statue of Liberty is one of several sites around the country that fall within a 30-nautical-mile radius of an airport and are considered "Class B airspace," requiring pilots to request permission before entering the area. Mr Shumann said this practice predates September 11th and is "a way for FAA to control, safely, the traffic in these busy areas".

A British High Court decision to block the extradition to France of a suspected Islamic extremist caused anger yesterday in Paris, where the Algerian is wanted over a spate of bombings that killed eight and injured 180 in 1995. France has been urging Britain to extradite Rachid Ramda (32), since he was arrested there in November 1995.