NEWS

Unprecedented security plan for Merkel's Athens visit includes ban on rallies

Attica police have banned all demonstrations in downtown Athens on Tuesday, when Chancellor Angela Merkel is due to arrive for talks with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras.

In the biggest security operation mounted in the Greek capital since US President Bill Clinton visited in 1999, more than 7,000 police officers are to be placed on duty to prevent Merkel?s visit being disrupted.

However, it is the police?s decision to ringfence a large area around the city center and negate the plans of unions to hold an anti-austerity protest in front of Parliament that has drawn most attention.

The police issued a statement that any public gatherings or marches would be banned between 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on Tuesday. It said the decision was being taken in the interests of public safety and the city?s ?socioeconomic life?.

Greece's two largest unions, GSEE and ADEDY, are likely to look for an alternative location to hold their rallies. Klafthmonos Square and Pedion tou Areos park are two possible alternatives.

There will be no buses or trolley buses in Athens between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Six metro stations: Panepistimio, Syntagma, Evangelismos, Megaro Mousikis, Ambelokipi and Katechaki will be closed from 10 a.m. onwards for security reasons. Trains, however, should be running as normal despite the noon to 3 p.m. work stoppage called by ADEDY and GSEE.

Parking around the German embassy in Athens will be banned from Monday night and barricades will be put up around Parliament. Snipers will also be placed around the hotel where the German delegation will stay.

The German chancellor?s route from the airport to her meetings in Athens will be lined with policemen.

Merkel is due to arrive at 1.30 p.m. at Athens International Airport, where she will be met by Samaras. The pair will then travel to the Maximos Mansion, where they will hold talks. Merkal is due to meet President Karolos Papoulias at 4.45 p.m. before joining Samaras at an event organized by the Hellenic-American Chamber of Commerce at the Hilton Hotel. Merkel will fly back to Berlin on Tuesday evening.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Merkel's spokesman, Steffen Seibert, said that the German chancellor would not be bringing any «gifts» for the Greek government.

He said that Germany supported Greece's position in the eurozone as long as Athens meets its bailout commitments.

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