LONDON -- A bomb was discovered yesterday in the podium at an anti-terrorist conference in London that was to be addressed by a government minister and the country's top police commander.
A small plastic lunch box packed with explosives was hidden under the top of the speaker's podium in a building in St. James, yards from where a terrorist bomb exploded in the Carlton Club in June.
Shortly before the conference was to open, a television technician wiring a microphone to the lectern discovered the bomb. He became suspicious when he noticed that the top of the podium, which had been steady the previous night, was not balanced. He looked underneath and saw the plastic box.
"It would have killed the speaker and other people as well," said Cmdr. George Churchill-Coleman, head of Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist squad. He said it had all the hallmarks of an Irish Republican Army operation.
"It is yet another example of the diversity of attack that can be used by this organization," he said, adding: "As I have said on previous occasions, if you want to live, you must look and keep looking."
If the IRA confirms its involvement, it would be in line with its recent campaign of striking against political targets as well as military targets on the English mainland.
The conference was to have been held in the Royal Overseas League, a private club. It was canceled after discovery of the bomb, which was defused.
Commander Churchill-Coleman said he believed the bomb was placed under the podium between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The bomb was timed to go off at about 10:30 a.m., shortly after the conference was to open.
Conference speakers were to have included William Waldegrave, a Foreign Office minister, and Sir Peter Imbert, head of Scotland Yard. Defense Minister Tom King had been on the program but withdrew because of the Persian Gulf crisis.