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New Zealand bomb scare has a sweet ending

Aug. 20, 2013 at 6:06 AM   |   Comments

WELLINGTON, New Zealand, Aug. 19 (UPI) -- Police gave evacuated New Zealand Parliament employees the all clear to return to work after suspicious white powder was found to be icing on Turkish delight.

Police were called to Parliament Buildings in Wellington around 4:30 p.m. Monday after an employee found white powder inside a package that was being opened, the New Zealand Herald reported.

Wellington district police spokesman Nick Bohm said police sealed the room in the Parliamentary Library in which the parcel was opened, turned off the air conditioning and called in a bomb disposal unit.

Staff members who had touched the powder were asked to remain in the room while two police officers and two Parliament security staff opened the package wearing rubber gloves and masks.

"On arrival, we were able to confirm that it was Turkish delight," Bohm said.

"And the white powder was in fact icing sugar."

A public relations company had sent the Turkish delight to members of Parliament, staff and journalists as part of a promotion, the Herald reported.

Politicians and parliamentary employees have been cautious about suspicious packages after white powder was sent to the offices of Members of Parliament Gerry Brownlee and Peter Dunne, as well as to the Ministry of Health, last month.

TVNZ reported an army bomb disposal unit found the powder to be baking soda.

But police opened an investigation into the incidents to see if the events were connected.

Police, ambulance, fire service and bomb disposal teams responded when the envelopes were found.

One was at Brownlee's parliamentary office and another at Dunne's electorate office in Wellington.

Police evacuated about 80 people from the fourth floor of a building occupied by the director general of the Ministry of Health July 15 after unidentified white powder was found in a letter, The (Wellington) Dominion Post reported.

"Three people were exposed to an unidentified, but what now has been determined as an inert white powder," police Senior Sgt. Hamish Milne said.

A hospital and the French Embassy also reported incidents of unidentified white powder in the mail in early July, the Post reported at the time.

New Zealand is about to extend the powers of its Government Communications Security Bureau. Prime Minister John Key introduced the GCSB and Related Legislation Amendment Bill in Parliament and it is widely expected to pass its final reading this week, TVNZ reported.

The GCSB would be allowed to collect information from all New Zealanders for the use of other government departments including the New Zealand Police, Defense Force and the Security Intelligence Service.

Up to now, the GCSB has been allowed to intercept only foreign communications but the new legislation will give it the right to intercept domestic communications as well.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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