Warren Buffet Predicts Nuclear Attack

May 7, 2002

       Investment guru Warren Buffett offered a bleak prediction for the nation's national security, saying a terrorist attack on American soil is "virtually a certainty".

Envy and dislike of the United States have fuelled rage against the country even as the ability to build a nuclear device has spread, Mr. Buffett said on Sunday at the final day of Berkshire Hathaway's annual meeting.

"We're going to have something in the way of a major nuclear event in this country," Mr. Buffett said. "It will happen. Whether it will happen in 10 years or 10 minutes, or 50 years . . . it's virtually a certainty."

Washington and New York would be the top two targets because terrorists want to traumatize the country and kill as many people as possible. Chemical or biological attacks are similarly high risks, he said.

Terrorists could harm thousands of Americans by simply introducing a chemical or biological agent into the ventilation system of a major office building.

"People are working on it," he said. "It could make the World Trade Centre loss look like nothing."

Mr. Buffett's remarks come as the insurance industry re-evaluates business in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Berkshire and other insurers absorbed as much as $US70 billion ($130 billion) of losses from the destruction of the twin towers that killed about 3000 people.

"The capability to strike using nuclear, chemical or biological devices isn't there yet, but it will be," Mr. Buffett told investors.

Mr. Buffett is the second richest man in the world with holdings in Coca-Cola, American Express and The Washington Post, but his main business is insurance.

Berkshire's insurance companies - particularly General Re Corp - took a $US2.4 billion underwriting loss because of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

The companies are now writing policies on terrorism but limiting their liability in any nuclear, biological or chemical attack. Only the Federal Government can ultimately insure property and other damage from a major terrorist attack, Mr. Buffett said.

The 71-year-old Mr. Buffett and vice-chairman Charlie Munger met the news media the day after they spent six hours answering questions from Berkshire shareholders gathered for the meeting.

AP, Bloomberg

This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2002/05/06/1019441477485.html

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