Monday, May 06, 2002

Buffett predicts nuclear attack on U.S.

The Associated Press

        OMAHA, Neb. — 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 fueled rage against the country even as the ability to build a nuclear device has spread, Buffett said Sunday at the final day of Berkshire Hathaway Inc.'s annual meeting.

        “We're going to have something in the way of a major nuclear event in this country,” said Buffett, the firm's chief operating officer. “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, Buffett said.

        Chemical or biological attacks are similarly high risks, Buffett said.

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

        Berkshire Hathaway's insurance companies — particularly General Re Corp. — took a $2.4 billion underwriting loss because of the Sept. 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, Buffett said.

        The 71-year-old Buffett and vice chairman Charlie Munger met with the news media the day after they spent six hours answering questions from some of the more than 10,000 Berkshire shareholders gathered for the annual meeting.


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