Foreign Office releases more junta files

The sensitive issue of US support for the military dictatorship that ran Greece from April 1967 to July 1974 was among the topics covered by British Foreign Office documents declassified yesterday after being kept secret for 30 years. A dispatch from the British Embassy in Athens dated October 27, 1971, for example, saw US Vice President Spiro Agnew’s visit to Greece on October 16-23, 1971, as an expression of strong support for the military dictatorship that could have led to greater intransigence but may also have averted the possibility of Athens declaring its neutrality at the height of the Cold War. «The Greek government may now feel that it has a powerful friend and supporter in Washington and that the visit by the American vice president strengthened the regime’s standing internationally,» the document noted. «This might make the colonels more difficult and demanding in their relations with other allies, including the United Kingdom, and it will not encourage them to carry out constitutional reforms to make them more reputable. On the other hand, this visit has eradicated the possibility of the regime following a neutral policy.» The dispatch by diplomat John Powell-Jones noted that after Greece was ejected from the Council of Europe (on December 12, 1969), junta officials had indicated they might opt for neutrality. But in his farewell to Agnew, dictator Giorgos Papadopoulos stressed Greece’s devotion to the Western alliance to an exaggerated degree, the report commented. Many Greeks blame US support for helping the junta seize power and stay in office. The visit by Agnew, a Greek-American, is pointed at as the most public example of US support. A dispatch by Ambassador Sir Robin Hooper speaks of a meeting between himself and US Ambassador Henry Tasca on September 30, in which Tasca said the State Department had agreed he should meet with self-exiled former (and subsequent) prime minister Constantine Karamanlis in Paris shortly before Agnew’s visit in order to offset the regime’s possible anger at the Paris meeting. The 35 documents declassified yesterday included the expulsion of Amalia Fleming, the Greek-born widow of Sir Alexander Fleming, from Greece for resistance activities. Opposition New Democracy party leader Costas Karamanlis, in his New Year’s message, said: «This is a station in the course of the new Europe that is gradually taking shape. It is a daring and decisive step toward its true union.»

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