NEWS

Security has top bill

Public Order Minister Giorgos Floridis leaves for Washington tomorrow, leading a Greek delegation that will discuss Olympic security with senior US officials. From next month, a series of major exercises involving foreign security teams and aimed at protecting the Athens Games from terrorist strikes will begin. The Greek delegation includes Greek Police Chief Lt. General Fotis Nasiakos and National Information Service director Pavlos Apostolidis. Floridis will meet with National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, CIA Director George Tenet, the State Department’s director of the office of counterterrorism, Coffer Black, and other officials to discuss security as well as any assistance Greece may require during the Games, mainly with regard to specialized technology. Floridis told a news conference yesterday that the ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense were examining whether legislation had to be introduced to allow foreign troops to take part in security exercises in Greece and that the necessary measures would be taken to allow this. US troops are to participate in a major exercise under real conditions in March. On February 6-8, an exercise in dealing with nuclear, biological and chemical weapons threats, titled «Blue Odyssey,» is to be held in Athens, supervised by the British. Other participants will include teams from the seven countries in the Olympic Advisory Group and third nations such as Japan, which has considerable experience in dealing with such threats. Floridis said that US Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge had expressed interest in coming to Greece. But the visit would need to take place before Parliament dissolves in early February, ahead of the March 7 elections. Defense Minister Yiannos Papantoniou yesterday attended a demonstration of Greek special forces, who showed off skills and routines they have developed to help protect the Olympics. «NATO member countries will be on a high state of alert… (and) will cooperate with us in terms of being ready to intervene if a crisis erupts,» The Associated Press quoted Papantoniou as saying. «But as far as Greek soil is concerned, there will be only Greek forces.» The daily Eleftherotypia reported yesterday that Floridis and the US Embassy in Athens have agreed on American troops arriving in Greece on C-130 military transport planes next month to take part in the first exercise under real conditions.