Stepping up security preparations for the Athens Olympics, the government yesterday held the inaugural meeting of a committee of senior ministers and security officials that will coordinate the response to any threat. The meeting, at the Public Order Ministry, was part of the major Greek-US security exercise called «Shield of Hercules 2004.» Public Order Minister Giorgos Voulgarakis noted that the meeting was held «in a simulated Olympic environment.» He added: «There was a very good discussion and we drew very useful and constructive conclusions… There will be many such discussions in future.» Among those on the Olympic Security Coordinating Council (SYSOA) are the ministers of interior, foreign affairs, defense, health, justice, transport, merchant marine, the government spokesman and the alternate culture minister. The head of the Athens 2004 Organizing Committee, Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki, the chiefs of the police force and the National Intelligence Service, as well as other officials, are also on the council. Among the issues it will decide is when to call in special forces, to use special weaponry and to evacuate facilities if necessary. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told member state envoys that the response to Greece’s request for assistance would be «immediate and positive.» US State Department deputy spokesman Adam Ereli said, «We’ll continue to work with the government of Greece to support them in any way that they request and think is appropriate to enhance security for the Olympics.» Separately, NATO members yesterday decided to widen anti-terrorist naval patrols in the Mediterranean.