Government says fertilizer scare likely false alarm

TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian police have located a man who bought a supply of ammonium nitrate fertilizer under suspicious circumstances and say the incident, coming two weeks before Canada plays host to two global summits, now appears harmless.

Police became concerned after a farm supply store in southern Ontario alerted them to the purchase on Wednesday. The material -- similar to an explosive ingredient used in a 1995 Oklahoma City bomb that killed 168 people -- was later found at two addresses in Toronto.

In late June, the Group of Eight industrialized countries will hold a summit in northern Ontario, followed by a meeting of the Group of 20 rich and developing nations in Toronto.

“Quite frankly it looks like this is going to turn out to be a gardening incident,” a police spokesman told the CTV television network.

Ammonium nitrate is normally used as a high-nitrogen fertilizer for crops, but authorities require buyers to register all purchases because it can also be used as an oxidizing agent in explosives.

Staff at the farm supply store became suspicious of the man when he paid in cash for the fertilizer instead of charging it to the account of a farmer who the man said he was buying the material for.

Police have removed the material from the Toronto residences, and no charges are expected, media reported.

The summits will take place in Huntsville, a resort town in northern Ontario, and in Toronto, Canada’s largest city. The Canadian government is spending about C$1 billion ($970 million) on security for the summits, where the agenda will focus on the global economic crisis.

($1=$1.03 Canadian)

Reporting by Pav Jordan in Toronto