NATO forces will not be involved in providing security for the Athens 2004 Olympics but Greece will be cooperating with foreign countries and foreign services in order to secure the necessary means to protect the Games, Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou said yesterday. This was understood to be a roundabout way of confirming that Greece would soon request the deployment of NATO AWACS planes to monitor the country’s air space during the Olympics. But Greece has not responded to the alliance’s offer to provide its rapid reaction force for the Games. Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis, speaking to a conference of consular officials, said Greece was cooperating with Balkan and Arab countries as well as security officials on a committee of experts from seven countries including the United States, Britain and Israel. «There is also close cooperation with countries of the Balkans and all Arab states. This cooperation consists of exchanges of information and the transfer of know-how, on the basis of international experience. We are on the alert, we are working intensively and we have reason to be optimistic,» Floridis said. On Monday, he met with Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorism chief, David Veness. PM Costas Simitis met with Foreign Minister George Papandreou and Papantoniou yesterday to discuss foreign relations and the Cyprus issue, in light of Simitis’s meeting with visiting Cypriot President Tassos Papadopoulos today. Although security has been in the spotlight since last week’s terrorist attacks in Turkey, the two ministers told reporters they had not discussed the Olympics. Greek officials are keen to present themselves as fully in charge of security, though they are expected to ask for early warning aircraft from NATO. A fleet of the the alliance’s warships is to be in the eastern Mediterranean for the Olympics. «There is no question of NATO forces’ involvement in the issue of security for the Olympic Games. There is, of course, an issue of cooperation between Greek forces (both of defense and public order) with foreign countries and foreign services to achieve the necessary means (either intelligence or other) for dealing with any possible threat,» Papantoniou said. He said Athens was not being pressured by NATO to accept assistance. Earlier, Papantoniou met with US Ambassador Thomas Miller for talks on Olympic security, NATO and arms procurements.