'Suspicious packages' found at consulates in Australia

Emergency workers near the Melbourne consulates of India and France. /BBC
Emergency workers near the Melbourne consulates of India and France. /BBC

Australian police are investigating suspicious packages found at foreign consulates in Canberra and Melbourne.

Melbourne's Metropolitan Fire Brigade said it had been called to "a number of incidents" across the city.

Consulates of the UK, Switzerland, US and Pakistan are among those affected, as well as reportedly several others.

"The packages are being examined by attending emergency services. The circumstances are being investigated," the Australian Federal Police said.

State police in Melbourne said the incidents were believed to be "targeted and not impacting the general community".

Emergency workers had been seen at consulates belonging to India, South Korea, New Zealand, Greece and Italy, local media said.

A British High Commission official said: "We are liaising closely with the [federal police] and the local authorities.

"All our staff are safe and accounted for."

The Swiss consulate in Melbourne was sent a small envelope containing a substance labelled "asbestos", said Peter Erb, the husband of honorary consul Manuela Erb.

"We immediately put the envelope in another bag and rang the emergency service and they came and took it away," he told the BBC.

"We do know now that the item was not likely a bio-hazard."

The US consulate in Melbourne had also notified authorities about a suspicious package, a spokesman told Reuters.

On Monday, suspicious parcels containing a white substance were sent to Argentina's consulate in Sydney. They were later found to be non-toxic.