Athens condemns Istanbul attacks

Greece strongly condemned Saturday’s double terrorist bombings of Istanbul synagogues, which killed at least 23 people, while Greece’s Jewish leaders called for stronger security at local community centers. According to reports late yesterday, the Al Qaeda radical Islamic group claimed responsibility for the suicide attacks in the city’s historic center, which took place as Jewish worshipers were at prayer. Some 17 of the victims were Turks. Prime Minister Costas Simitis immediately wired his condolences to his Turkish counterpart, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while government spokesman Christos Protopapas denounced the «barbaric and atrocious act,» expressing support for the families of the victims as well as the Turkish people and government. Foreign Minister George Papandreou said a constant fight was needed to confront «the forces of hatred, racism, xenophobia and anti-Semitism.» «This is a fight for the defense of human rights and the principles of our civilization, which concern us all, irrespective of religious or political beliefs,» he added. Opposition leader Costas Karamanlis also sent his condolences to Erdogan, saying the attacks «are a manifestation of a worldwide problem that must be eradicated.» Jewish community leaders in Greece called on the government to step up security at Jewish sites in the country that could serve as terrorist targets. Although several Jewish cemeteries or holocaust memorials in Greece have been attacked by vandals in recent years, there have been no terrorist attacks. Orthodox Ecumenical Patriarch Vartholomaios conveyed his condolences to Istanbul’s arch-rabbi, and Archbishop Christodoulos denounced the «criminal acts in Constantinople… and the acts of violence in Palestine, Israel, Iraq and Saudi Arabia.»