NATO to help with Olympic security

Brussels – The North Atlantic Council, NATO’s top decision-making body, yesterday gave its official approval to Greece’s request for assistance in protecting the Athens Olympics in a procedure that was a mere formality, as none of the 19 member states expressed any opposition. Britain’s permanent representative said during the brief discussion that aside from everything else, the allied military mission would constitute a great opportunity for NATO to show its ability to not only intervene in crises but to prevent them. The Greek request comprises mainly the deployment of a number of early warning aircraft (AWACS), naval units to patrol sea passages and a unit trained in biological and chemical warfare. The alliance’s civil defense planning unit will be used if a major attack does take place and there will be an intensive exchange of information. Technological measures will be used to protect the Games. Now the planning for the operation will begin, with the aim of this being completed by early June. It has been made clear that NATO forces will be deployed under Greek command but it is still not certain where they will be based. The issue of who will pay the bill has not been discussed. Greece noted yesterday, however, that it has already undertaken a cost of 1 billion euros to protect the Games. Former Culture Minister Evangelos Venizelos yesterday caused a stir when he broke ranks with PASOK leader George Papandreou and criticized the invitation to NATO as «extraneous formalities and procedures that could be misinterpreted.»

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