NEWS

NATO response soon

NATO is expected to respond officially to Greece’s request for assistance during the Athens Olympics when the North Atlantic Council meets today or next Wednesday. Greece first made the request informally two weeks ago, under the former government, and it was presented officially to the alliance’s Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and the supreme allied commander in Europe on Friday. But it will take a decision by the North Atlantic Council to make NATO’s involvement official and to allow the alliance and Greek military staff to work out the details of the assistance. NATO’s commander for southeast Europe, US Admiral Gregory Johnson, said yesterday the alliance was ready to provide help. «There are several areas where I think that we would be value-added to the overall security situation,» he told reporters during a visit to Kosovo, Agence France-Presse reported. «It is in the interest of all of us to make sure that the Olympics… are safe for everybody and that it is a world event that can help unify us, which is what the spirit of the Olympics is all about,» he said. AFP said a source at NATO’s Brussels headquarters said that ambassadors from the 19 member states would convene today and tomorrow to discuss the matter. The basic help that Greece has requested is the use of early warning planes (AWACS), naval patrols and a Czech brigade trained in dealing with biological and chemical warfare. Other forms of assistance may also be included. Among the issues to be worked out are whether the NATO forces that will be involved will be on Greek territory or whether they will be on standby elsewhere. Another major issue is who will pay the cost of 24-hour patrols and other forms of readiness over a span of about a month. Greece says that it will not be able to pay. All units that will be used in Greece will be under Greek command. Another question is whether the NATO forces will have a high-profile presence. US Ambassador Thomas Miller discussed security with Defense Minister Spilios Spiliotopoulos. He accompanied 6th Fleet commander Rear Admiral Harry Ulrich to a meeting with Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis. A major Greek-US security exercise is taking place in Greece over most of this month. Fire Department chief Panayiotis Fourlas assured Voulgarakis that from May 1 the service will be ready to deal with threats to the Olympics, as units have been trained in anti-terror work.