Madrid blasts are felt in wary Athens

Greece expressed shock and condemnation of the terrorist attack that killed at least 190 people in Madrid yesterday, at a time of increased concern over security during this August’s Olympic Games in Athens. From Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis sending condolences to his Spanish counterpart to citizens calling the stricken country’s embassy, Greeks expressed solidarity with the Spanish people. Government sources said that the issue did not appear to be directly related to Greece (on the assumption the attack was an act of domestic and not international terrorism) but that security in Greece had not eased at all. The Hellenic Railways Organization, whose trains run between cities, and the Piraeus-Kifissia railway heightened security. The Athens metro kept security at the usual level in trains and stations. Police took extra security measures at the Spanish Embassy, the Cervantes Institute, the offices of the Spanish airline Iberia and other businesses that could be seen as targets. The attacks coincided with a major Greek-American security exercise that is being held in Greece until March 23 under a news blackout. Last night, US Ambassador Thomas Miller visited newly appointed Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis and one of the subjects they discussed was yesterday’s attack. Also, Karamanlis met with Athens 2004 Organizing Committee head Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the minister overseeing Olympic preparations, Fanni Palli-Petralia, Voulgarakis and other aides. «We expressed our feelings of solidarity with the people of Spain,» Voulgarakis told reporters after this meeting. «We discussed and set out our aims, and we will make good progress,» he added regarding security. Palli-Petralia said security planning would not change as it was deemed sufficient. Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos, on his first full day at work, was briefed on the armed forces’ state of preparedness and on issues related to Olympic security. He was also briefed continually on developments from Madrid. Political leaders condemned the terrorist attack and expressed condolences and solidarity with the Spanish people. «Acts of hatred cannot respond to any of the challenges of our new century. That is why they must be defeated and will be defeated,» Karamanlis wrote in a message of condolences to his Spanish counterpart, Jose Maria Aznar. «I remain certain that the citizens will appreciate your efforts on this issue in the parliamentary elections on Sunday,» he added. Foreign Minister Petros Molyviatis expressed his condolences to his Spanish counterpart, Anna Palacio, the Foreign Ministry said. PASOK leader George Papandreou and the smaller leftist Synaspismos and Democratic Social Movement (DIKKI) condemned the attack. Archbishop Christodoulos sent a message of condolence to Aznar. Spanish Ambassador Eduardo Junco, in a statement, said, «I want to thank the authorities and people of Greece for their solidarity. We have received many exceptionally kind telephone calls on this day of grief. I wish, through the Greek press, to thank everyone for their solidarity on this day that we need it so much.»

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