updated 6/9/2005 1:55:36 AM ET 2005-06-09T05:55:36

Five foreign embassies — including the U.S. embassy — were temporarily closed Thursday after they received envelopes containing a suspicious white powder, officials said.

Police said they were investigating the envelopes, which were sent to the U.S., British, Japanese, Italian and South Korean embassies in Canberra. A package was also sent to Australia’s Parliament House.

A spokeswoman at the U.S. Embassy said the building was temporarily closed as a “precautionary measure” after an envelope containing white powder was received Thursday morning.

Emergency services were called to the scene, she said, but no one was evacuated.

The packages at all locations had been secured by teams trained in dealing with hazardous material and were being investigated by emergency response crews, a spokesman for the Australian Capital Territory police in Canberra told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

All four embassies were closed, although Parliament House remained open.

Italy’s Deputy Ambassador, Angelo Travaglini, said the envelope contained a white powder, but had no accompanying note or letter explaining why the embassy had been targeted.

Series of incidents
The packages were the latest in a string of incidents involving government buildings in Australia’s capital.

Earlier this week, a suspicious package containing white powder that was later found to be harmless sparked a security scare at the Indonesian Embassy, less than a week after a similar incident caused embassy staff to be quarantined and decontaminated.

That incident also proved to be a hoax, and was linked to supporters of an Australian woman convicted in Indonesia of drug smuggling in a case that sparked anger among many Australians.

The police spokesman refused officially to confirm that the latest embassy closures were a hoax, but hinted strongly that police believed the packages were harmless.

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