The number of attendees at a security conference in Queenstown has plummeted and conference organisers blame war talk coming from the White House.
AsiaCrypt 2002, which runs from December 1 to December 5, was to have nearly 200 conference attendees, however Otago University associate professor Hank Wolfe is now expecting only 135 from 20 countries.
"Apparently that lunatic in the White House is scaring people away."
Wolfe says talk of war with Iraq has seen a large number of pre-registrations left unfulfilled.
"Everyone I talked to was positive but half of them haven't put their money where their mouth is."
Wolfe says he doesn't think the location of the conference is the problem, rather it's a sign of the times.
"Anyone who wants to go to war is a lunatic - you can't be sane to want that. Defending is one thing but instigating is an entirely different story. I believe that's had an impact and [International Association for Cryptologic Research] IACR that organises it thinks the same."
Wolfe says the IACR, which is a not-for-profit organisation, has a contingency fund to cover such eventualities.
"Our break even point was 175 based on our track record and we were on track to be the largest event ever, so that's not very good. I'm going to go down in flames as making the biggest loss in our history."
Wolfe says submissions for the conference are up considerably over the last conference with around 170 received by the deadline. Only 35 will be presented at the conference, and Wolfe says this means the quality will be second to none.
"It's not going to impede the conference, that's going forward no matter what."
AsiaCrypt 2002 is one of three International Association for Cryptologic Research (IACR) conferences held each year, the other two being in the US and Europe. Conference papers include topics such as "An Analysis of Bernstein's factorisation circuit" and "A variant of the Cramer-Shoup cryptosystem for groups of unknown order".