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Security incident at UK parliament

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Great Britain

LONDON, England -- The British parliament was briefly sealed off on Wednesday following a security incident sparked by man throwing a mystery substance.

Officers wearing protective clothing and gas masks were seen entering the area, according to media reports. A man was later detained, police said.

Unconfirmed reports said the powder was being tested for anthrax, the Press Association reported. Thirty minutes later the all-clear was given and parliament reopened. Police said the powder was harmless.

The substance was sprinkled in the central lobby of the Palace of Westminster, which contains both houses.

A spokesman for Scotland Yard said: "At around 1800 today, a man spread an unidentified substance in the central lobby. He has been detained at the scene while inquiries continue."

There have been several breaches of security at Westminster in recent years. In May 2004 a fathers' rights campaigner threw purple powder at Prime Minister Tony Blair at Question Time.

And later that year five pro-hunting protesters stormed the House of Commons (lower house of parliament), causing the sitting to be suspended.

Security has since been increased with a security screen placed between the public gallery and the Commons chamber.

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