Japan rejects China's torch guards; flame in Argentina

(dpa) - Chinese security guards who have accompanied the Olympic torch on its route through London, Paris and San Francisco will not be allowed to run alongside the torch in Japan later this month.

Security on Japanese soil is for the domestic police alone, and the principle will not be compromised because it is the Olympics, a senior Japanese official said.

It follows a similar pledge by Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd who said Thursday "total security will be provided by the Australian authorities" during the Canberra torch relay.

The comments came as the Olympic flame arrived in Buenos Aires from San Francisco amid tight security for the torch relay's only South American stop.

After protesters hounded the Beijing-bound torch across Europe and during its sole North American leg Wednesday in San Francisco, there were no demonstrators at the airport it arrived in Argentina.

The torch was delivered to a secret location overnight, ahead of Friday's planned procession through the Argentine capital.

There has been criticism of heavy-handed tactics by the Chinese "flame protection squad" - members of special police units dressed in blue tracksuits - who have been sent by Beijing to escort the Olympic flame on its journey around the world.

In Tokyo, Shinya Izumi, head of Japan's National Public Safety Commission, said Friday: "We should not violate the principle that the Japanese police will firmly maintain security.

"We do not know what position the people who escorted the relay are in. If they are for the consideration of security, it is our role. I do not personally accept the idea that they will run in Japan as they ran in other countries."

The Olympic torch relay will arrive in Nagano, host city for the 1998 Winter Olympics, on April 26.

Rudd on Thursday had said the Chinese guards would travel on a bus in Canberra when the torch is due on April 24 and only get off if the Olympic torch needed to be relit.

A large protest is planned by Tibetans and their supporters during the torch relay in Canberra, the Australia Tibet Council said.

"It's important to point out that this is not anti-Chinese, it's not anti-Olympics; it's really about Tibet, it's about recognizing the problems that are there," Simon Bradshaw, the council's campaign coordinator, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in Beijing.

Police in Hong Kong said Friday barricades might be erected along the route of the torch relay during its May 2 leg in the former British colony.

Around 3,000 police officers will be mobilized when the torch arrives in Hong Kong, its first stop on Chinese soil after its worldwide tour.

Meanwhile Kenyan Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai threw her support behind activists protesting China's role in Tibet and Sudan's Darfur region by declining to be a part of the Olympic torch relay in Tanzania when the torch arrives on Sunday.

Vancouver said there would be no international torch relay when it hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics. "Our plan has always been to have a relay that was largely centred on Canada," organizing committee head John Furlong said in Beijing.

Furlong said it was conceivable that the torch might make a stop on its way from Olympia in Greece to Canada and that Vancouver organizers had "never contemplated" having an international relay.

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