Tight Security Prepared for G-8 Summit

GLENEAGLES, Scotland (AP) - With a five-mile ring of steel, 10,000 police on standby, watchtowers and a no-fly zone, Gleneagles Hotel is locked down under a sophisticated G-8 security operation to protect the world's most powerful men.

Chief Constable John Vine of Tayside Police has spent 18 months planning for the arrival Wednesday of leaders of the Group of Eight industrialized nations in this picturesque corner of rural Scotland.

His team is braced for hundreds of anarchists and anti-globalization protesters who intend to disrupt the three-day summit - and the possibility of a terrorist strike.

"It is a potential terrorist target," Vine told The Associated Press. "All our planning has been based on it both being a terrorist target and of course a target for public protest, so there is a necessity for us to have an exclusion zone."

Operation Sorbus - named after the berry of the rowan tree, which according to folklore wards off evil spirits - includes a 6-foot-high steel mesh fence around the perimeter of the exclusive Gleneagles hotel and country club, running through rolling farmland in the Perthshire countryside. It is guarded by a series of watchtowers and a network of surveillance cameras.

As well as a formidable obstacle, the fence is also a clear demarcation line; protesters who attempt to cross it face immediate arrest, Tayside police say.

Inside the perimeter, where the leaders of Britain, the United States, France, Germany, Russia, Canada, Japan and Italy will meet Wednesday through Friday, are further extensive security measures, which police officials declined to describe.

About 10,000 officers drafted from across the United Kingdom are available to deal with G-8 protesters - from peaceful environmental and anti-poverty campaigners to hardcore anarchists. Some 3,000 police are assigned to Gleneagles itself, including a specialist firearms team, officers mounted on horseback and a guard-dog unit.

An airship will act as a spy in the sky to spot troublemakers and beam back video footage to officers on the ground. Two helicopters also will patrol the skies.

Police have set up four checkpoints on rural roads that pass close to the hotel's grounds and championship golf courses. Only delegates, media and local residents issued with accreditation will be allowed to pass. In a further security measure, gasoline stations across central Scotland have been banned from selling fuel in portable containers until the summit ends.

Vine, who has 22 years of policing experience, said an extensive intelligence operation had been under way for months, involving Britain's domestic intelligence service MI5, Special Branch and London's Metropolitan Police, gathering details on anarchist groups.

"Our strategy will be to try to deal with those people very quickly, very effectively, to try to separate them out from the peaceful protesters," said Vine. "We know that this event will attract those elements to it. It always has done and it will on this occasion."

"There has been lots of speculation about what has happened at other summits, particularly Genoa," he said, referring to the 2001 G-8 summit in Italy, where an officer shot and killed a protester.

"I don't have a crystal ball," he added. "We have spent 10 weeks training our officers across the forces of Scotland in dealing with public disorders. Police officers will be deployed in ordinary uniforms with a friendly face. We want to police this in a very low-key way. We do not want to overreact to anything that might happen."

The final guests at the five-star, 269-room hotel checked out Sunday to make way for the G-8 leaders. In nearby Auchterarder, many locals were nervous about the planned march Wednesday by the campaign group G-8 Alternatives, which will pass through the town.

"It's the talk of the local bowling club, people are panicking, panicking," said Colin White, who works at a butcher shop. "I don't believe a small community like this should have to put up with it. It should have been right in the middle of the Atlantic on an aircraft carrier."