Biggest Police Operation In German History For G8

The "biggest police operation in the history of Germany" is taking shape at a beach resort on the Baltic coast as the June 6-8 summit among the Group of Eight (G8) nations approaches.

Sightseers are already heading to the environs of Heiligendamm, the remote seaside venue chosen by the German hosts as the summit, to ogle at a 2.5-metre-high welded-mesh fence topped with barbed wire which has already been built round the resort.

While the details are top secret, the chief of German federal police, Joerg Ziercke, revealed last year that the operation is without parallel in Germany's past. Presidents or government chiefs from seven western nations and Russia will take part in the summit.

The police force specially conceived for the summit with personnel seconded from around the country is code-named Kavala, from the name of a Greek seaside place which many Germans compare with Heiligendamm as a "white town beside the sea."

The temporary fence, 13 kilometres long and equipped with closed- circuit video cameras to detect any infiltrators, cost the German government 12.5 million euros (16.6 million dollars).

When the zone within the fence is closed to the public on May 30, the area will probably become the best-policed place in the whole of Europe. An expected 100,000 demonstrators, most of them opponents of globalization, are not permitted to approach the fence.

Protesters are likely to defy the ban.

"Getting up to the fence is our objective," most of them say, describing the barrier as a symbol of how the G8 "closes itself off against the rest of the world." Many of the 16,000 police assigned to the summit will be employed keeping the protesters at a distance.

The G8 opponents say they will also try block roads, though they say they do not imagine this will stop any world leaders. "They'll all be using helicopters," shrugged a leader of the Block G8 group.

The protesters say they will regard it as a victory if they can delay the arrival of thousands of government officials advising the summit leaders in Heiligendamm.

Knut Abramowski, the commander of Kavala, comments curtly, "We won't let them block anything."

The remoteness of Heiligendamm, surrounded as it is by farmland, woods, a lake and the sea, is both a boon and a problem for police, since it stretches police lines of communication and deployment.

The nearest airport is nearly 60 kilometres away and the nearest city, Rostock, 20 kilometres through an area with poor roads.

On the Saturday before the summit, tens of thousands of protesters plan to attend a rally in Rostock, and it is conceivable some might walk off into the countryside towards Heiligendamm.

To stop anyone attacking the summit from above, an aerial exclusion zone with a radius of 50 kilometres from the summit hotel will be imposed.

However Abramowksi said it would not apply to international airliners provided they stay 10,000 metres high or higher. Usually German air force patrols police such zones.

A small naval exclusion zone will be declared offshore in mid-May and this will be extended on June 3 to embrace nearly 21 kilometres of coast up to 11 kilometres from the white-sand beach.

Police refuse to confirm news reports that two US warships will help patrol offshore, with additional responsibility to intercept any incoming missiles.

This would not be a novelty: when US President George W. Bush stayed in Heiligendamm in July last year during a visit to Germany, a US warship very visibly cruising in the Baltic offshore.